This was a vote on final passage of the House budget resolution for fiscal year 2012. The annual budget resolution is essentially a blueprint for all federal government spending. Budget resolutions do not have the force of law, but rather set the parameters for all future congressional actions relating to the federal budget. For example, all government spending bills must abide by the funding limits established by the budget resolution in order to comply with House and Senate rules. (“Emergency spending,” such as disaster relief or war funding, is exempted from this requirement.)
In addition, the 2012 budget resolution cut $770 billion from Medicaid—the health insurance program for the poor that is funded jointly by the federal government and states. In order to generate $770 billion in savings, the Republican budget resolution converted Medicaid into a “block grant,” in which states would simply receive a lump sum of money from the federal government to do as they see fit. If Medicaid were converted into a block grant, states would have far more flexibility in setting eligibility requirements for the program. For example, the federal government guaranteed Medicaid coverage to children, pregnant women, and parents with dependent children who met certain income requirements. Under a block grant system, states could elect not to insure those populations, or set the threshold for eligibility much higher. Thus, if Medicaid became a block grant, many Americans could lose their Medicaid coverage.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the sponsor of the Republican budget resolution, urged support for the measure: “The spending spree is over. We cannot keep spending money we don't have. The American people deserve the truth. They deserve an honest, fact-based conversation about this budget. We have got to get on to the days of no more budget gimmicks, timing shifts, accounting tricks. And we've got to get on to fixing our country's fiscal problems while we still can and while they're still within our control….It [the Republican budget resolution] brings the government's spending as a share of our economy back down to where it historically has been, contrary to where the President is taking it….So we have a choice of two futures, Mr. Chairman. Which future do you want your children to have? One, where the debt gets so large, it crushes the economy and it gives them a diminished future, a stagnant economy; or, two, this budget, using CBO [Congressional Budget Office] numbers, that literally not only gets us on the way to balancing the budget but pays off our debt, gets our debt manageable, preempts and prevents a debt crisis, and fixes this so we can preserve this great legacy of giving the next generation a higher standard of living.”
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) also supported the measure: “This budget represents a valiant effort to effect real change in the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars. This plan couples tangible spending cuts with the entitlement reform necessary to get our budget back into balance starting now and continuing into the long term. This Republican majority understands that we must end the skyrocketing budgets of the last several years, and this budget reiterates our commitment to smart but limited government spending.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) opposed the budget resolution: “We all know that to govern is to choose, and the choices made in the Republican budget are wrong for America. It is not bold to give tax giveaways to the oil companies and executive board rooms while slashing investments in our kids' classrooms, in scientific research, and in critical infrastructure for this country. It is not courageous to provide additional tax breaks for millionaires while ending the Medicare guarantee for seniors and sticking seniors with the cost of the rising health care. It is not visionary to reward corporations that ship American jobs instead of products overseas while we terminate health care for tens of millions of Americans here at home. It is not brave to give Governors a blank check of federal taxpayer money and a license to cut support for seniors and nursing homes, individuals with disabilities, and low-income kids on Medicaid. And it's not fair to give yet another tax break to the very wealthy and ask middle-income Americans to pay for it. Yet, if you read the Republican budget, those are the choices they make.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) also opposed the Republican budget measure: “This budget is just not my cup of tea….This budget does not share the sacrifice. It focuses the pain on the young, on the very old, on those who are trying to climb up the economic ladder, or just barely prevent themselves from slipping backward….Our budget should be balanced, but not unfairly on the backs of those least able to bear it, like our elderly in nursing homes. It's troubling enough that this Republican budget demands even more tax cuts for those at the top and our largest corporations. But what's truly outrageous is that they seek balance by cutting the opportunity for our young people to get all the education they are willing to work for.”
[The annual budget resolution is essentially a blueprint for all federal government spending. Budget resolutions do not have the force of law, but rather set the parameters for all future congressional actions relating to the federal budget. For example, all government spending bills must abide by the funding limits established by the budget resolution in order to comply with House and Senate rules. (“Emergency spending,” such as disaster relief or war funding, is exempted from this requirement.)]
The House passed this budget resolution by a vote of 235-193. Voting “yea” were 235 Republicans. All 189 Democrats present and 4 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed a budget resolution setting the parameters for all federal government spending, cutting $5.8 trillion from federal programs over 10 years, converting Medicaid into a block grant, and converting the Medicare program for the elderly into a private health insurance voucher system, instead of a guaranteed, government-run program.