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Ambitious Democratic Budget Proposal Draws Ire on Capitol Hill 

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Ambitious Democratic Budget Proposal Draws Ire on Capitol Hill 

 

(Washington D.C.)  The 115th Congress has begun and Democrats have rushed their budget proposal to the Senate floor while Republican opponents of the bill have made it clear they intend to stand firm against it. 

 

The FY 2018/2019 budget proposal, written and introduced by Senate Majority Leader Lawrence Clayborne (D-OR), is a lofty and ambitious one. The budget as written includes major healthcare reform; instituting a public option, allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices under Medicare, and extending CHIP – the children’s healthcare program – for five years. 

 

In addition to that, the budget proposal includes major tax reform, eliminating many loopholes in the tax code and forcing corporations to pay on deferrals of offshore profits and subjects foreign corporations who buy out more than 50% of U.S. corporations to pay federal taxes. The tax reform section has been estimated to potentially bring in nearly $900 billion in new federal tax income from corporations. 

 

Aside from tax reform and healthcare – perhaps the most discussed provisions in the proposed budget – a slew of other issues, from major reform to federal college loans which would dramatically lower interest rates and allow refinancing of loans to social security reform which would adjust the means of which cost-of-living is calculated for seniors while increasing monthly insurance benefits for widows and widowers is also addressed. This is without mentioning over two dozen reauthorizations and different enactments of legislation contained within the budget. 

 

Senate Majority Leader Lawrence Clayborne, the author of the budget proposal, has emphasized the Republicans’ lack of leadership on a budget – noting they failed to introduce a proposal of their own and instead opted to negotiate with the White House “behind closed doors” to achieve a compromise proposal. “When [Republican’s] controlled this body, they refused to hold any meaningful floor debates on the budget,” he reminded them on the Senate floor.

 

Republicans, on the other hand, have pointed to the budget proposal going far beyond just numbers and containing dozens of riders which would enact and reauthorize new government programs. Senator Dylan Macmillan (R-UT) brought this issue up in a floor speech. “I believe the most egregious act of this [budget] is the fact that it seeks to authorize or re-authorize [twenty-nine] new or former government programs in the greatest political game of piggy back riding I have ever seen,” Macmillan said. 

 

The larger point, however, has been Republicans pointing to the healthcare reform portion of the budget proposal, calling the public option a socialist program. Senator Bob Smith (R-WY) said the budget proposal “put socialist values over economic freedom” with Macmillan telling his colleagues the budget has “overtly socialist overtones.” Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Hugh Merchant, have already attempted to table the proposal in favor for negotiating privately with Democrats and the White House on a budget compromise. 

 

In a press release supporting the budget, the LeClavers administration noted the successes of the 2014 budget compromise which included major investments into pre-k programs, major tax loophole eliminations which raised taxes on the wealthy, along with major reductions to spending within the Department of Defense. Political commentators have noted Republicans are likely looking to recover from the potential political losses they suffered as a result of the 2014 budget compromise, pointing to the press release by the administration as a clear sign of that loss.

 

Special interests and corporations have come out heavil against the Democratic budget proposal as well, with the Chamber of Commerce leading the way, calling the proposal “reckless, dangerous, and a threat to the American economy as it stands.” The Heritage Foundation called the budget “an attack on American corporations and businesses” and called the healthcare reform proposals “the beginning of socialized medicine and the end of a free economy.” 

 

Other special interest groups, however, have defended the proposal and pledged to support it. NOW, the National Organization for Women, has highlighted healthcare social security reform as a major issue which would “provide women, widows and survivors, with more financial security.” The National Education Association called the reform to federal loans “an important step forward for students providing more higher-education opportunities across the country.” Despite this support, however, the sizeable opposition from corporate America has outweighed that of smaller special interest groups, leading many to believe that the tax reform included in the current will not end up in the final product, specifically the eliminating of deferrals of off-shore income. 

 

So far the debate has mostly stayed in the confines of Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats focusing on other issues in the press. This isn’t expected to last, however, due to the massive implications the current budget proposal would have on nearly every single area of policy highlighted in the most recent election. 

 

Fox News commentator Lee Nelson told viewers the proposal was “a sneak peek into the outright socialist, grand-scheme” of the new LeClavers administration. MSNBC commentator Ethan Klein countered, however, saying Republican opposition to the legislation was “empty rhetoric” due to their failure to provide any alternative proposal for the last several years, even as they controlled the chamber “which they lost in epic, historic fashion” in the 2016 election. 

 

It remains to be seen if negotiations will be held at the White House and whether or not those meetings will be held in private or in public as many Democrats have openly condemned “backdoor” meetings which have brought forward compromises in the past; most specifically, the 2014 budget compromise which many have hailed as a victory for Democrats. As we begin 2017, a repeat of that success seems highly unlikely as partisan gridlock has already encompassed the debate surrounding the budget.

 
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