What: All Issues : Fair Taxation : More Equitable Distribution of Tax Burden : Five-year budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 21)/On passage (2007 house Roll Call 307)
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Five-year budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 21)/On passage
house Roll Call 307     May 08, 2007
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This vote was on adoption of a House-Senate budget resolution for fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2013.

The budget resolution forms the blueprint for spending decisions for the next five years. It is passed by the House and Senate but is not signed by the president nor does it have the force of law. (That is why it is referred to as a resolution and not a bill.) Nonetheless, the ability of both chambers to agree on budget priorities is considered a prerequisite to responsible spending and good governance as it gives the 12 spending panels on the Appropriations Committee guidance and reflects consensus on how the multi-trillion dollar pie of federal spending should be sliced.

This vote represented the House's endorsement of its version of the budget resolution before the chamber sent its representatives to a conference committee to iron out differences between the two chambers' versions. During three of the past five years of Republican control of Congress, one or both chambers failed to pass the budget resolution and the spending process proceeded without one.

In the previous vote (see Roll Call 306), the House moved to take up consideration of the Senate's version of the fiscal 2008 budget resolution and then automatically amend it with the text of the House resolution. This vote then reflected the House's insistence on its budget numbers when House and Senate negotiators met to decide on a compromise plan. That resolution would then need to be sent back to each chamber for its approval in order for the resolution to be considered adopted.

Among the differences between the chambers was the total fiscal 2008 discretionary spending (which excludes Medicare and Social Security funding), which the House's version set at $956 billion and the Senate wanted to see lowered by $7 billion. (The House's figure was also $23 billion more than President Bush requested.)

The House's version called for $145.2 billion for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would assume $503.8 billion for defense discretionary spending, not counting the $145.2 billion war funding. Non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $451.1 billion. The resolution would also direct the Education and Labor Committee to find a total of $75 million in spending cuts for fiscal 2007 through 2012.

Republicans said that the budget plan would amount to the biggest tax increase in American history. What they were referring to was the budgetary treatment of future actions to renew tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, which the House's resolution didn't budget for. Because the budget resolution is not binding, however, the debate essentially amounted to what sort of political statement Congress would make on the extension of the tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2010. (The sun-setting provision was originally put in place, at least in part, to mask their huge budgetary consequences at the time of enactment.)

In its version of the resolution, the Senate went on record in supporting the extension of some of those tax cuts by financing their costs with expected surpluses. The House outlined its support for the extension of certain tax breaks less formally, drawing Republican criticism.

Democrats maintained that the resolution promised to extend the child-tax credit, the so-called marriage penalty relief, the 10 percent individual income tax bracket, estate tax reform, the research and development tax credit and the education of state and local sales taxes, but those tax provisions were not included in the formal budget.

Republicans said that the Democratic plan amounted to a tax increase. Democrats said they placed a higher priority on balancing the budget in five years while not cutting spending, and accused Republicans of running up the national debt since Bush took office.

Republican Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) called the budget a "fiscal train wreck."

"This Democrat budget, which is balanced on the backs of everyday taxpayers, would be used to finance bloated new government spending that will grow well above the rate of inflation through 2012, while also ignoring the brewing entitlement crisis," Sessions added. "Around 77 million baby boomers will be retiring in the very near future and will begin collecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Funding this new spending represents the greatest economic challenge of our era, and it is a challenge that the Democrat budget has chosen to completely ignore, while going on its own spending spree elsewhere."

Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) responded that he had no idea what Sessions was talking about. "The fact of the matter is that the Democratic budget resolution does not contain a single tax increase, period," a fact he said was backed up by numerous independent budget watchdog groups.

"We need to correct the fiscal course of the country because the fiscal outlook that we are confronting has deteriorated dramatically over the past 6 years because of the Republicans misplaced priorities," McGovern continued. "In 2001, the Bush administration inherited a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. That's $5.6 trillion. Within 2 years, that surplus was gone, and the United States began accumulating an amount of national debt, adding $2.8 trillion to our federal debt burden since 2001."

On a near party-line vote, the House voted to approve the budget resolution. Republicans were unanimous in their opposition, and all but 12 Democrats voted for its adoption. Thus, on a vote of 212 to 207, the House passed a five-year budget resolution that would leave open how to finance the extension of tax breaks that are set to expire at the end of the decade.

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