Thursday the US House of Representatives agreed to a $1.12 trillion bicameral 2016 budget deal that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act and broadly cut federal spending over the long-term, with the exception of defense spending.
House lawmakers voted 226-196 on the measure — officially, a conference report to accompany the Senate budget resolution — which was brought to the floor quickly after House and Senate negotiators announced Wednesday that they had reached a final compromise between their competing budget plans. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan on Monday.
The plan is intended to “get Washington’s fiscal house in order” through imposing necessary limits on spending while still ensuring investment in national priorities and shoring up national defense and other important programs, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., said on the House floor Thursday. (Credit AP).
But the compromise deal, put together with limited Democratic input, was slammed by Democratic House lawmakers, who criticized its spending priorities and alleged use of “gimmicks” to help bolster defense spending, among other issues.
Under the compromise budget resolution, federal discretionary spending for fiscal year 2016 would be $1.12 trillion, closer to the proposed House budget than the Senate one, which had floated a discretionary spending level of about $1.16 trillion.
Baseline defense spending would be capped at $523 billion and nondefense spending at $493 billion, with an additional $96 billion going toward defense Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, funding. Overall spending, including mandatory programs and interest on outstanding debt, would be about $3.87 trillion.
Over the long-term, the compromise budget seeks to bring the federal budget back into surplus by 2024 and ensure those surpluses continue by calling for a constitutional balanced budget amendment.
This would be the result of more than $5 trillion in planned spending cuts over the next decade, across a wide variety of federal programs, although defense spending would receive a significant boost over that period.
These cuts include the repeal of the ACA in order to “start over with patient-centered reforms,” Republican budget negotiators said Wednesday, with a policy statement in the budget plan arguing the health care bill is “unaffordable, intrusive [and] overreaching.”
Planned cuts and changes to federal funding would not be limited to discretionary spending, with changes planned for mandatory spending programs such as Social Security and Medicare, although a plan to effectively privatize Medicare by using a voucher system, included in the House budget, was removed from the final bicameral plan.
Although not binding and not strictly necessary for the congressional spending process, the budget resolution is intended to be used as broad template for the appropriations bills Congress considers each year.
It also offers the congressional majority the benefits of using the budget reconciliation process, allowing the passage of certain spending-related policy measures without the opportunity of filibuster by the minority party.
The House has already started its appropriations process and began debate on Wednesday on 2016 funding bills covering military construction and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as energy and water development, having used its own budget plan as a guide to allow the process to move forward before lawmakers had agreed to the bicameral deal.