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GOP Budget Moves Ahead                 10/18 05:42

   The Senate has voted to move ahead on a Republican budget plan that's a 
critical step in the party's drive to cut taxes and simplify the IRS code. 

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate is moving ahead on a Republican budget plan, a 
critical step in President Donald Trump and the party's politically imperative 
drive to cut taxes and simplify the IRS code.

   The nonbinding budget plan would permit Republicans to pass follow-up tax 
cuts later this year that would cost up to $1.5 trillion over the coming 
decade. The plan cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on a party-line vote 
of 50-47.

   The plan breaks with longstanding promises by top Republicans like Senate 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan that the upcoming 
tax drive won't add to the nation's $20 trillion debt. Once the budget plan 
passes through the GOP-controlled Congress, the House and Senate can then 
advance a follow-up tax overhaul measure without fear of a filibuster by Senate 
Democrats.

   "It is crucial that Congress approve this fiscal framework in order to 
eliminate the dated and stifling tax policies that are holding back our 
nation," said Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

   The budget plan calls for $5 trillion in spending cuts over the decade, 
including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the Obama-era health care law, though 
Republicans have no plans to actually impose those cuts with follow-up 
legislation.

   Tuesday's vote sets up a vote later this week to pass the budget. That vote 
is likely to be close, but key GOP moderates such as Susan Collins of Maine and 
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have signaled support. And John McCain, R-Ariz., who 
bucked the party on health care, said Tuesday that he supports the budget as a 
path to accomplishing tax reform

   Rand Paul, R-Ky., is opposed, but so far he is the only Republican to come 
out against the measure, and GOP leaders are confident the budget will pass by 
Friday.

   Paul told reporters he wants to strip $43 billion in war funding from the 
measure, claiming the money busts budget limits set years ago. He lashed out at 
McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. --- longstanding defense hawks defending 
the war funding --- and questioned whether Republicans are serious about 
cutting automatic-pilot programs known as entitlement spending.

   "You've got the McCain-Graham people clamoring for as much money as they can 
stuff in there and then we also have people saying, 'Oh yeah, we're going to do 
entitlement reform' but with no means, no mechanism, and no will shown that 
they actually are serious."

   Graham shot back on Twitter that Paul was dishing out "bad info" and was 
threatening to "screw up #TaxReform."

   Trump and his GOP allies plan to use the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to 
sharply reduce corporate rates, cut taxes for most individuals, and slash taxes 
on business partnerships such as law firms, medical practices, and accounting 
firms. After failing to deliver on their promise to "repeal and replace" the 
health care law, Republicans fear that failure to deliver on taxes would be a 
political disaster.

   The spending cuts in the measure include $473 billion from Medicare and more 
than $1 trillion from Medicaid. Although the budget plan is nonbinding, it puts 
Republicans and Democrats on record about its policies.

   If the measure's politically difficult cuts were implemented, the budget 
deficit would drop to $424 billion after 10 years and average about $540 
billion a year over the life of the plan, the Congressional Budget Office 
estimates.

   Republicans use different math, relying on optimistic predictions of 
economic growth that average 2.6 percent a year, while ignoring growing, 
chronic deficits run by Social Security to claim that their budget could 
actually generate a surplus by 2026.

   "The Budget Committee expects that enactment of pro-growth policies could 
generate sufficient economic growth to offset" the $1.5 trillion tax cut, 
according to the panel's budget report.

   Even most economists sympathetic to arguments that tax cuts boost the 
economy don't claim they fully pay for themselves, however.

   "A good estimate for real-world tax policy is somewhere around 25-30 cents 
on the dollar," said GOP economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

   While Democrats remain united against the budget plan, the Trump 
administration is making overtures to Democratic senators from states Trump 
easily won last year. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire 
McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Manchin of West Virginia dined Monday night at 
the home of daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both top 
presidential advisers.

   The bare-bones tax blueprint issued last month by Trump and Republican 
leaders lacks critical details, and two of the Democrats said it was premature 
to consider compromises.

   There was "lots of talk" about the tax plan, Heitkamp said Tuesday, but "I 
still don't know what it is."

   McCaskill said, "It's very difficult to discuss what, if anything, we could 
agree to if they don't have a plan."


(KA)

 
 
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