- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Senate Republicans released a budget Wednesday that balances the books within 10 years while proposing $430 billion in unspecified cuts to Medicare and sets a goal of repealing Obamacare, cuing up a war of words with President Obama as both sides of the Capitol polished their spending plans.

Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi’s plan for fiscal year 2016 is less ambitious than the one released a day earlier by the House GOP, which would turn Medicare into a voucher-like program and would balance in nine years.

The Senate plan also cuts the Medicaid health program for the poor by roughly $400 billion over the next decade, although aides said it would reap the savings from able-bodied enrollees instead of the disabled or low-income seniors.

“It’s a budget that will support economic growth and more opportunity for hardworking families, while protecting our most vulnerable citizens,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said. “And it’s a budget that would allow us to repeal and replace a program that hurts the middle class: Obamacare.”

Mr. McConnell said the GOP plan compares favorably to Mr. Obama’s “unserious” budget, which would raise taxes by nearly $2 trillion over the next decade, and increase the national debt by $7 trillion.

The Senate plan does not include any new revenue from tax increases, and would increase the debt by about $2.7 trillion over the next decade. For fiscal 2016, it would spend about $3.8 trillion and take in $3.46 trillion in revenue, with a deficit of $343 billion.

The House GOP plan, which saw early action in the House Budget Committee Wednesday, cuts $5.5 trillion from spending over 10 years. For 2016, it would spend $3.79 trillion and take in $3.46 trillion, with a deficit of $346 billion.

Mr. Obama blasted both GOP proposals Wednesday, saying the party “doubles down on trickle-down” economics, while congressional Democrats said Republicans shirked domestic spending.

“Clearly, in the eyes of many Republicans, the wealthy and the powerful need more help,” added Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who leads Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee.

Congressional budgets are blueprints without the force of law, but they offer a comprehensive outline of each party’s agenda as lawmakers forge actual spending bills.

And the budget can be used to pass future legislation, through a process known as “reconciliation,” that offers a chance to make major tax reforms or to eviscerate Obamacare.

The Senate plan instructs the finance and health committee’s specifically target Obamacare through the process, while leaving room to adjust to a Supreme Court ruling expected by June that could cancel government subsidies to exchange customers in most states.

Like the House, the Senate GOP took in revenues from Obamacare even as it sought to do away with the law, leaving it up to appropriators to make up the difference in real life.

Democrats said ending Obamacare would hurt the 16 million Americans who have gained insurance through the 2010 overhaul.

Mr. Enzi matches Mr. Obama’s budget by ordering up Medicare cuts to extend the trust fund’s life by five years, although it rejects the House GOP’s plan to turn the program for seniors into a voucher-like system of “premium support.”

Mr. Enzi would also give states more power over Medicaid, but not the block-grants prescribed by House Budget Chairman Tom Price, Georgia Republican.

Senate Republicans fund defense at the maximum levels allowed by the 2011 sequester caps but refused to replicate Mr. Price’s reliance on the overseas contingency fund.

Budget crafters Wednesday told the House Budget Committee they resorted to the war account as the “only mechanism that was available to us” to beef up defense spending.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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