WASHINGTON After hours of sharp, partisan debate Thursday that's likely to be echoed around the nation this election year, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives approved, with no Democratic support, a federal budget plan that would slash popular domestic programs while sparing defense.
The partisan clash was a preview of the epic battle over federal spending and taxes that's already the main issue in this year's congressional and presidential elections. The GOP-authored measure, which passed 218-199, was an alternative to the estimated $110 billion in automatic reductions in domestic and defense programs scheduled to take effect Jan. 2 under the Budget Control Act enacted after last summer's debt-ceiling debacle.
All 183 Democrats participating voted no, and all but 16 Republicans voted yes.
The House measure is unlikely to pass the Democratic-led Senate, and the White House issued a veto threat, so it's not going to be enacted. Any accord on an alternative to the automatic spending cuts is unlikely to be reached until after the November elections.
In the meantime, both parties are vowing to cut spending dramatically and in the Democrats' case, raise taxes on the wealthy, too as centerpieces of their congressional and presidential campaigns. Their rival approaches to Thursday's debate mirrored their campaign rhetoric.
"The bill's unbalanced provisions fail the test of fairness and shared responsibility," an Obama administration statement said.
President Barack Obama's fiscal 2013 budget proposed to cut non-security domestic discretionary spending such as certain transportation and social service programs by $400 billion over 10 years.
He also has proposed a series of tax increases, including ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for people who earn more than $250,000 annually which are due to expire at the end of this year limiting deductions for the wealthy and imposing a higher tax rate on millionaires.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposes a very different approach. He'd push for a 20 percent across-the-board cut in income-tax rates, and an immediate 5 percent cut in non-defense discretionary programs He also would require federal agencies to show why the federal government rather than states or the private sector must provide a particular program or service, and would aim to reduce all federal spending to 20 percent of the gross domestic product by the end of his first term. It's now about 24 percent.
Before anyone is sworn into the presidency next January, though, Obama and Congress will confront the automatic cuts, part of last summer's bitter negotiations that eventually allowed the federal debt limit to increase.
Both parties want to tinker with those cuts. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told Congress "it's totally irresponsible" to proceed with the Pentagon reductions. Republicans agree.
But the two parties differ sharply on what to do. The House Republican plan would cancel coming Pentagon cuts, and would compensate by cutting more deeply into domestic programs.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insisted Republicans just want to slow programs' projected growth.