U.S. Senate rejects GOP budget cuts & U.S. House of Rep's thwart deficit-reduction moves. This is truly a slap in the face to Bush & GOP leadership.
The Senate dealt a "slap to President Bush and the Republican leadership," in the words of the Washington Post, passing a guideline budget resolution that would "gut much of the GOP's deficit-reduction efforts by restoring requested cuts to Medicaid, education, community development and other programs."
In doing so, the Senate set up a major fight over budget priorities, the Post says, as it, the House and the White House "try to iron out an agreement that would allow for the first entitlement cuts since 1997, as well as oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
In the biggest difference with the Senate, the House narrowly passed a budget that includes $69 billion in entitlement cost cutting, with as much as $20 billion in savings from Medicaid, the government's primary health program for the poor.
What the two budget resolutions have in common are tens of billions of dollars to extend Mr. Bush's tax cuts over the next five years, the New York Times notes. Though in a surprise move, the Senate also voted to approve $34 billion more in tax cuts than the president wanted -- essentially repealing a tax enacted in 1993 on Social Security benefits for the wealthy.
But the Medicaid issue moved the House and Senate further apart, infuriating House Republicans and provoking a scathing rebuke from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, The Wall Street Journal reports.
While some of the savings can be salvaged in coming budget talks, the divergence "underscores just how difficult it is politically -- even in Mr. Bush's own party -- to rein in the escalating cost of many government benefit programs," the Journal says.
Still, the Senate did go along with the House's cutting of $2.81 billion in agricultural and nutrition programs.
If the two chambers cannot reach agreement, they would be forced to go without a plan, as they did last year, the Los Angeles Times notes. And such a breakdown would be what the Times calls "an embarrassment for the GOP leadership, which had expected that the larger Republican majorities in both chambers — and particularly in the Senate — would allow easy passage of the president's proposals."
(The WSJ online.)