The long debate over the Fiscal Year 2011 budget finally came to an end this week. The House passed H.R. 1473 to fund the federal government for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year which ends on September 30th. I voted NO.
I am committed to reducing our deficit and this vote is just the beginning of a long and difficult process to achieve meaningful reductions. But I also believe that the pain should be shared broadly and fairly. Unfortunately, H.R. 1473 doesn't even approach that goal. It cuts almost $40 billion from the budget and asks our most vulnerable citizens to shoulder more of the burden. At the same time, H.R. 1473 increases funding for the Defense Department.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed this bill and concluded it will only reduce this year's deficit by $352 million. That may seem like a big number, but certainly not when viewed through the almost $40 BILLION in cuts to budget authority contained in this bill. In terms of the federal budget and our staggering deficit, it is actually a very small savings. The reason for the savings difference is that although there are clearly funding cuts in this bill, there are also spending increases such as in the Defense Department, cuts to reserve funds and cuts to projects that were funded but not initiated yet.
To achieve that savings, many valuable programs will experience significant cuts and more than 50% of those cuts are coming out of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is cut by $390 million, Community Health Center funding is cut by $600 million, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program is cut by $500 million, and housing funds for the elderly and disabled are cut by more than $500 million. There is $700 million less for the Community Development Block Grant program, nothing for High Speed Rail and $296 million less for the Community Oriented Policing Program (COPS). This is just a sampling of the many reductions contained in H.R. 1473. Of course, I am troubled by these cuts. I am also deeply concerned about what this Continuing Resolution (CR) means as debate begins over the FY 2012 budget. It is clearly a blueprint for the direction that Republican leadership wants to take our country. I voted NO. H.R. 1473 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
More on the Budget
While debate concluded on the Continuing Resolution for the FY 2011 budget, the House took up H.Con.Res. 34: Establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2012 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2013 through 2021.
This is the Republican budget blueprint released last week by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. H.Con.Res. 34 is more troubling than the CR we just completed because of the path it sets our country on. First, it doesn't reduce the deficit at all -- in fact, it adds over $8 trillion to the deficit over ten years. The proposal makes permanent the Bush tax cuts that were extended last year. That alone will add $1 trillion to our deficit over ten years. It repeals health care reform and reduces the top individual tax rate from 35% to 25% -- another break for the wealthiest Americans.
The proposal also changes the Medicare program for everyone currently under 55, providing $8,000 a year for health care expenses and sending them into the private market to purchase insurance. A typical plan for a senior couple with a pre-existing condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes could cost more than $20,000, leaving seniors with $12,000 in out of pocket expenses. This is double what the average senior pays today in out of pocket costs. In addition, Medicaid funding would turn into a block grant for states to spend as they choose which could result in the dollars being spent elsewhere.
On Wednesday President Obama presented his vision for reducing the deficit, which is certainly better than the Republican budget plan. The President emphasized his commitment to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He also definitively stated that the country cannot afford to renew tax cuts for the wealthy that are due to expire at the end of next year. Of course, details matter, and I look forward to receiving more information about the President's proposals.
I voted NO on H.Con.Res. 34, which passed today and the entire vote is recorded below:
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT