Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saidWednesday that he will force Republicans in his chamber to vote on a House plan to cut popular healthcare programs while trimming taxes for corporations and the wealthy.
"We'll see how much Republicans like it here in the Senate," Reid, a Democrat, said of the budget written by House Republicans, which passed that chamber on April 15 without Democratic support.
The House budget has drawn fire because in future years it would deeply cut Medicare and Medicaid healthcare for the elderly and poor, while also paring taxes for corporations and the wealthy.
"It would be one of the worst things that could happen to this country if that came into effect. It would have an adverse effect immediately and long term," Reid said.
The House plan would likely be defeated in the Democratic-led Senate. But in bringing it to a vote, Reid would be forcing Senate Republicans to either go on record in favor of controversial spending cuts or abandon their House Republican colleagues.
The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has said the House-passed budget addresses "our most pressing problems head-on at a moment when the president and other Democrat leaders simply refuse to do so themselves."
Reid, speaking to reporters on a conference call, also said he favored a "deficit cap" to get ballooning U.S. budgets under control. He did not provide details on how deeply the cap would cut spending or whether it also would rely on tax increases.
"There are different ways it can be done," Reid said, adding that there are "all kinds of triggering mechanisms" to enforce any caps that Congress might enact.
The House Republican budget written by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan aims to put the United States on a healthier fiscal path with nearly $6 trillion in spending cuts over a decade that would result in $4.4 trillion in deficit reductions. The federal budget deficit for this fiscal year alone is projected to be $1.4 trillion.
But since its unveiling a few weeks ago, a divisive debate has opened over whether Washington should cut deeply into Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic programs.
Meanwhile, the Ryan budget maintains robust funding for the U.S. military, despite calls by some budget experts to rein in that spending.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last month, a majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the federal deficit rather than taking money from public retirement and health programs.
At town hall meetings held by members of Congress during the current congressional recess, many constituents have complained about the Republican budget plan to cut upper-income taxes.
Republicans have countered that they are reforming Medicare and Medicaid to keep it sound for future generations and that further tax cuts will encourage more business investment and grow the economy.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is working on a Democratic response to the House-passed budget blueprint.
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