Dems to Answer GOP Budget With Slew of Amendments

Dems to Answer GOP Budget With Slew of Amendments
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The budget proposals released in Congress this week don’t have the power of law and don’t go to the president’s desk for a signature if passed by the House and Senate. Instead, they’re more like blueprints, statements of each party’s goals and policy directions.

Republicans made their statements clear with proposals that slash domestic spending in an effort to balance the budget within a decade. Democrats, on principle, disagree with just about everything in the GOP outline. Next week, they plan to make a statement of their own, introducing a number of amendments that will force Republicans into votes on Democratic priorities.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber, and Bernie Sanders, the ranking member of the budget committee, unveiled some of those plans in a briefing with reporters Thursday afternoon.

Before they spoke about their forthcoming amendments, however, they got a word in on the Republican priorities. Sanders called the GOP budget a “Robin Hood proposal in reverse.” Schumer called it a “fairy tale.”

“They can’t agree on what gimmicks and how much sleight of hand to use, although they use plenty of it,” Schumer said. “That makes this a fairy tale budget.”

Next week, in the lead-up to a vote on the proposals, a marathon voting session on amendments will take place. Schumer and Sanders identified more than a half-dozen that Democrats will introduce, though they noted there will likely be plenty more.

First, Sanders said, they will make a point that it is “absurd” how much revenue is lost because of tax loopholes. Closing some of those loopholes would help offset the costs of another amendment, proposed by Sanders, which would “significantly increase” funding for infrastructure, including the Highway Trust Fund.

Sanders also proposed amendments on raising the minimum wage, reversing the GOP’s cuts into Medicare and Medicaid and addressing college costs and high student debt.

Schumer further proposed amendments green-lighting President Obama’s proposal for free community college; paid sick leave; tax credits for some retirement savings; and universal preschool.

These are just the start for next week’s vote-o-rama. Schumer said there will be amendments undoing major spending cuts on domestic initiatives, and he added that individual members are likely to propose their own ideas they are eager to see get a vote. A similar dynamic was in play during the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this year, when Democrats proposed amendments on climate change and other environmental issues that put Republicans in difficult voting positions.

While the GOP budget proposals don’t have the weight of law, proffering them previews the debate over appropriations bills to fund the government later in the year. Sanders said the Democrats’ amendments will set the scene for the initiatives they hope to incorporate into actual legislation. Schumer said that for now, they simply show each party’s priorities.

“We think we’re going to get a real feeling as to which side our Republican colleagues are on,” Schumer said. “The days of shielding Republican members from voting for or against the middle class will be over when this budget comes to the floor next week.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly cited cuts to Social Security in the GOP budget proposal. There are no such cuts in the plan.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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