House Barely Passes Paul Ryan’s Budget, With 12 Republicans Voting No

All Democrats voted against the bill.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) walks to a meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
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Sarah Mimms and Billy House
April 10, 2014, 8:48 a.m.

The House on Thursday nar­rowly passed Rep. Paul Ry­an’s Re­pub­lic­an budget, which in­cludes $5.1 tril­lion in spend­ing cuts over 10 years without clos­ing tax loop­holes, as Ry­an and oth­er GOP lead­ers aver­ted a po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing de­feat on the bill be­cause of party de­fec­tions.

The meas­ure passed 219 to 205, with 12 Re­pub­lic­ans join­ing all Demo­crats in vot­ing no. A swing of just sev­en Re­pub­lic­an votes would have de­feated the meas­ure.

Those Re­pub­lic­ans who lined up against the budget are a blend of mostly con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers and some mod­er­ates. They were: Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gin­grey, Jack King­ston, and Aus­tin Scott of Geor­gia; Thomas Massie of Ken­tucky; Rick Craw­ford of Arkan­sas; Chris Gib­son of New York; Frank Lo­Bi­ondo of New Jer­sey; Ral­ph Hall of Texas; Dave Jolly of Flor­ida; Wal­ter Jones of North Car­o­lina; and Dav­id McKin­ley of West Vir­gin­ia.

King­ston voted for the Ry­an budget in 2013, while Broun and Gin­grey op­posed it. All three are locked in a con­ten­tious, sev­en-way Re­pub­lic­an primary for re­tir­ing Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss’s seat. Scott, Hall, and Lo­Bi­ondo also sup­por­ted Ry­an’s budget last year.

Mean­while, Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Joe Heck of Nevada, and Randy For­bes of Vir­gin­ia, who op­posed the Ry­an budget last year, voted in fa­vor of the 2014 budget Thursday.

GOP Rep. Vance Mc­Al­lister of Louisi­ana, who has missed votes all week on the heels of a kiss­ing scan­dal, and Rep. Jon Run­yan of New Jer­sey did not vote. Six Demo­crats also did not vote, in­clud­ing Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who is run­ning for gov­ernor of Pennsylvania.

The ac­tion fol­lowed a series of House votes on al­tern­at­ives, in­clud­ing de­feats earli­er Thursday of a House Demo­crat­ic al­tern­at­ive and Wed­nes­day of what Re­pub­lic­ans offered as a ver­sion of Pres­id­ent Obama’s pro­posed fisc­al 2015 budget — a de­pic­tion Demo­crats dis­puted.

In a lead-up to the vote on the Ry­an plan, the Budget Com­mit­tee chair­man and 2012 GOP vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee de­fen­ded his pro­pos­al on the cham­ber floor and cast the Demo­crat­ic al­tern­at­ive as one that “nev­er bal­ances.”

“At the end of the day, it’s just not cred­ible,” Ry­an said.

But Demo­crats, led by Budget Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Chris Van Hol­len and Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi, cast the Ry­an plan as one that pro­tects the rich and spe­cial in­terests at the ex­pense of the middle class, with Pelosi say­ing it is “a path to ru­in; it is not a path to prosper­ity.”

Pas­sage of the Ry­an bill is ef­fect­ively a sym­bol­ic mes­saging man­euver in a midterm-elec­tion year.

In fact, Demo­crats who lead the Sen­ate don’t plan to pass a budget at all for fisc­al 2015, which be­gins Oct. 1, say­ing that the two-year spend­ing agree­ment Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray reached in Decem­ber with Ry­an makes that un­ne­ces­sary. The Mur­ray-Ry­an agree­ment set dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing levels for the up­com­ing fisc­al year at $1.014 tril­lion.

Even some Re­pub­lic­ans ac­know­ledge pas­sage of the Ry­an budget is more an as­pir­a­tion­al de­clar­a­tion of their party’s pri­or­it­ies and vis­ion of gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

But the vote Thursday showed that it is not ne­ces­sar­ily a re­flec­tion of all House Re­pub­lic­ans’ vis­ion. Some con­ser­vat­ive de­fec­tions had been an­ti­cip­ated.

“This is a mes­saging bill. What it says is, if you give us the Sen­ate and we have the House, this is what we will do, this is what we can do,” Massie said earli­er this week.

“And so I think it should be bold, it should be cred­ible…. I think it should be bolder than it is and I can’t sup­port it.”

“The reas­on I’m not go­ing to vote for the Ry­an budget is it has the 10-year num­ber “¦ be­fore we bal­ance it,” he said. “When the Amer­ic­an people look at this and say we elec­ted them to bal­ance a budget and now they’re go­ing to rely on people 10 years from now to ac­tu­ally get the job done — when in fact this year we raised the budget gap, we couldn’t even keep the prom­ise that we made a year or two ago.”

Still, Ry­an’s plan does rep­res­ent a sort of Re­pub­lic­an mani­festo on deal­ing with the na­tion’s fin­ances. And Ry­an had said in un­veil­ing the plan last week that he thinks “it’s im­port­ant to show our vis­ion as a party for the fu­ture.” The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is now about $17.5 tril­lion in debt.

His budget pushes high­er de­fense spend­ing — and cuts and changes to Medi­care, Medi­caid, food stamps, and oth­er so­cial safety-net pro­grams.

Some 40 per­cent of the $5.1 tril­lion in sav­ings en­vi­sioned in Ry­an’s “big­ger pic­ture” for the next 10 years is de­pic­ted as com­ing through a full re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act. In all, his plan would spend about $42.6 tril­lion over 10 years, com­pared with about $47.8 tril­lion un­der ex­ist­ing policies.

At the same time, Ry­an’s budget does not say pre­cisely what he would re­place Obama­care with, only of­fer­ing the ex­pect­a­tion that it will be re­placed. And Demo­crats, like Van Hol­len of Mary­land, com­plain that Ry­an’s pro­pos­al, even while scrap­ping the health care law, keeps all of its more than $700 bil­lion in Medi­care sav­ings, as well as $1 tril­lion in rev­en­ues from Obama­care.

And Ry­an’s budget calls for re­du­cing taxes on the wealthy — in­di­vidu­als would have just two rates, 25 per­cent and 10 per­cent — and cut­ting the cor­por­ate tax rate to 25 per­cent. But it does not lay out a de­tailed route to those goals or even em­brace a re­cent one pro­posed by Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Dave Camp of Michigan.

Ry­an’s plan would abide by the agree­ment with Mur­ray on a split in spend­ing levels between de­fense and nondefense pro­grams for fisc­al 2014 and 2015. But his longer-range mil­it­ary spend­ing would blow past that deal. Mil­it­ary spend­ing through 2024 would ac­tu­ally be in­creased by $483 bil­lion over a cap es­tab­lished in 2011, and to pre-se­quester levels — $274 bil­lion more than re­ques­ted by the pres­id­ent. Mean­while, nondefense spend­ing would be cut by $791 bil­lion.

To reach bal­ance in 10 years, Ry­an’s plan em­braces a con­tro­ver­sial “dy­nam­ic scor­ing” no­tion that there would be some pos­it­ive im­pact on the na­tion’s eco­nom­ic growth simply by re­du­cing the de­fi­cit and cut­ting spend­ing — al­though some eco­nom­ists dis­agree with this and even sug­gest that it could slow the eco­nomy. Ry­an had not in­cluded such a cal­cu­la­tion in his pre­vi­ous budget pro­pos­als.

Ry­an’s plan also would turn more con­trol of Medi­caid and food stamps over to states — an an­nu­al pro­pos­al that some say would save money but has been a pop­u­lar elec­tion-year tar­get for Demo­crats.

The plan re­tains Ry­an’s idea for each Medi­care re­cip­i­ent to choose from a list of cov­er­age op­tions and pay­ments that would “best suit his or her needs,” and then pay­ments would be made dir­ectly to that plan. Over the longer term, the pro­pos­al dis­cusses giv­ing seni­ors who first be­come eli­gible when turn­ing 65 on or after Jan. 1, 2024, a choice of se­lect­ing private plans along­side the tra­di­tion­al fee-for-ser­vice Medi­care pro­gram.

Ry­an in­sists that this is not a “vouch­er sys­tem.”

But Van Hol­len has dis­puted that. And he said on the House floor be­fore the vote that “budgets re­flect the choices we make for our coun­try. They tell the Amer­ic­an people what we care about and what we care less about.”

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