House Republicans voted Friday in favor of a vision of the future without Medicare, with a significantly eroded Medicaid, and with lower taxes on wealthy Americans. By a vote of 235-193, they passed their budget resolution — an opening bid in a broader partisan fight about spending and taxes that will dominate politics in Washington, DC for the rest of the year.
Four Republicans voted with all Democrats against the so-called “Path to Prosperity.” Two Republicans and five Democratsdidn’t vote.
It’s also political poison. The GOP plan would slowly phase out the current Medicare system and replace it by offering beneficiaries partially subsidized private insurance (ironically, much like Obamacare). It would turn Medicaid into a block-grant program, allowing states to roll back currently guaranteed benefits for the poor and disabled. And it would eliminate most of the savings achieved from cutting these entitlements lowering the tax burden on wealthy Americans.
It was almost worse. Earlier in the day, Republicans fell prey to a Democratic procedural tactic and nearly voted to replace the plan they passed with an even farther-reaching one. Republicans didn’t whip any of the alternative budgets, and were caught flat-footed when Democrats voted “present” on a more conservative proposal, leading to pandemonium on the House floor.
As an early salvo in his re-election fight, President Obama criticized Republicans for creating the looming fiscal crisis with reckless policies in the last decade, and for proposing to fix it on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans
“We contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, those with disabilities. We’re a better country because of these commitments,” Obama said. “I’ll go further. We would not be a great country without those commitments.”
Though the budget has no future in the Senate, House Republicans have put themselves on the line for a political whipping as severe the one they received when they tried to privatize Social Security in 2005.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.