WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats accused newly empowered House Republicans of exempting more than $1 trillion in proposed tax cuts and higher spending over the next 10 years from a promise to cut federal deficits.
The exemptions include a bill to repeal last year's health care legislation as well as GOP-backed proposals extending a series of tax cuts for upper income filers that are due to expire in two years, according to a tally several Senate Democrats unveiled at a news conference Thursday.
Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan assailed House Republicans for scrapping a Democratic rule aimed at making it more difficult to cut taxes or increase spending with borrowed money.
"If Republicans want to give millionaires a tax break, the new rules say there's no need to cut spending to pay for it," Schumer said. He and his colleagues voted to extend tax cuts for upper-bracket taxpayers last month as part of a bipartisan tax and spending bill - a measure that added almost $1 trillion to the deficit despite the so-called pay-as-you-go budget rule that the Democrats were criticizing House Republicans for scrapping.
House Republicans have made deficit reduction a cornerstone of their agenda for the next two years and passed a series of rules changes on Wednesday designed to accomplish their goal. But the rules exempt a handful of specific bills until a budget plan is in place for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 and leave a subsequent accounting unclear.
The effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care bill is the first major measure expected to come before the House. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the year-old legislation will reduce deficits by $143 billion over the next decade, suggesting its repeal would raise red ink by the same amount.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., disputed the CBO estimate this week, and Speaker John Boehner told a news conference the projection was based on faulty assumptions. "I don't think anyone in this town believes" that repealing the bill will increase deficits, he added.
Cantor said in a nationally broadcast interview Thursday that the health care overhaul has spurred a host of new federal regulations that have had the effect of impeding private-sector hiring.
He told ABC's "Good Morning America" the GOP is serious about attempts to repeal Obama's health care law, saying Republicans understand the political realities of a repeal failing in the Senate but that they want to "send a signal" about "job-killing regulations."
"Republicans do care about people having health care," he said, "and we just know there's a better way." Republicans long have favored permanent extensions of tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush was president, and Democrats have generally supported elimination of those that apply to upper income individuals and families, wealthy estates and many investors.
In a compromise late last month, Obama and Republicans settled on a two-year extension for all the cuts in an agreement that angered many rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers. The deal cleared the way for a bipartisan measure that included a cut in Social Security taxes and an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
At the same time, it guaranteed a resumption of partisan conflict over taxes for the two-year life of the Congress that began Wednesday.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)