WASHINGTON – Think of it as what could have been: Alternative visions of the federal budget from progressives, conservatives and other rank-and-file lawmakers that have little chance of passing but offer another view of priorities.
As House Republicans prepared Wednesday to pass their 10-year austerity budget plan from Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the chamber first dispatched with alternative proposals.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus offered a plan that would increase income taxes on millionaires to 45% – and billionaires to 49% – while paying for infrastructure programs and more money to the states to hire schoolteachers, cops and firefighters.
Progressives make up the bulk of the Democratic minority; but at 70-plus members, they are far from enough to pass a bill. It failed, 327 to 84.
Conservatives, who make up most of the Republican majority, offered an even more austere plan than the one from Ryan, the former Republican vice presidential nominee.
Though Ryan reaches the party’s ambitious goal of balancing the budget in 10 years, the conservative budget from the Republican Study Committee would balance in four, a highly attractive approach to the chamber’s Republicans, who were cheered on by outside groups.
The conservatives would turn the Medicare program into a voucher system when today's 59-year-olds become eligible at 65. Ryan had thought about starting the vouchers sooner, but decided to stick with changing Medicare for those now younger than 55.
The conservative budget protects defense accounts but shifts domestic spending to 2008 levels and freezes it there until budgets balance in 2017. Conservatives would also begin to boost the Social Security eligibility age to 70, a topic Ryan’s budget avoids.
Despite widespread support on the right, the conservatives could not rally support for passage. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) tamped down enthusiasm to protect the party’s preferred Ryan budget. The conservative alternative failed, 132 to 104, with Democrats largely voting “present” to emphasize the GOP split.
The Congressional Black Caucus budget would raise tax rates on household incomes above $250,000, slap a 5.4% surcharge on millionaires and end the mortgage interest deduction for vacation homes and yachts. Part of the extra revenue would be used for infrastructure projects to create jobs, and to hire workers in the states. It failed, 305 to 105.
The House also rejected the Democratic budget, with more than two dozen Democratic defections. It would have closed tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy Americans to fund infrastructure projects and bring down the deficit, but failed, 253 to 165.
On Thursday, the House will consider Ryan's budget, which is expected to be approved on party lines.