World Economy

GOP Offers $3.8t Plan That Boosts Defense

GOP Offers $3.8t Plan That Boosts DefenseGOP Offers $3.8t Plan That Boosts Defense

House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a $3.8 trillion budget plan for next year that effectively breaks tight budget limits on military spending while promising a familiar roster of big cuts to social programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

The plan by Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., pads Pentagon and State Department accounts for overseas operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere by $36 billion above President Barack Obama's $58 billion request for such spending, which is not bound by the return of automatic cuts next year.

In a statement, Price said the budget is the right solution as "our nation faces tremendous fiscal and economic challenges and, if nothing is done, a future of less opportunity and low expectations." Democrats sharply attacked the proposal.

"It will mean the end of the current Medicare guarantee, and millions of seniors in nursing homes will be especially hurt by the irresponsible cuts to Medicaid," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He said it also includes "windfall tax cuts to the top 1 percent."

The sleight of hand on defense spending has already raised the ire of conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and isn't likely to win approval by the Senate. But it could clear the way with pro-Pentagon forces in the House GOP, which had made it clear they could not support a budget that promised less for the Pentagon than Obama's request.

The overseas account, separate from the core defense budget, has covered the cost of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the military campaign began in 2001. In recent years, the account has helped the Pentagon deal with cuts in projected defense spending.

At issue is an annual measure known as a budget resolution that sets broad goals for taxes and spending but requires follow-up legislation to actually implement the plan.

Years of experience have shown that lawmakers in both parties find it easy to promise spending cuts in nonbinding congressional budgets but rarely follow up in binding legislation. The last major effort to balance the budget was in 1997 and an all-GOP plan in 2005 to make very modest cuts to autopilot "mandatory" spending was almost a debacle. A modest bipartisan budget plan in 2013 eased some automatic spending cuts but cleared the table of the easiest replacement cuts.