The U.S. House on Thursday approved a $4.1 trillion Republican budget outline for the federal government, a fiscal plan that envisions a balanced budget in ten years, and authorizes work on a tax reform bill under the expedited legislative process known as 'budget reconciliation,' which would not allow a filibuster in the Senate against a tax reform bill.
"The Republican budget takes a shot at once in a generation tax reform," said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), as Republicans noted that Congress has not approved a major tax reform bill since 1986.
"We have brought a good budget, a responsible budget, one that balances in ten years," said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH).
"We need to pass this budget so that we can deliver real relief for middle income families across this country," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, as the drive for tax relief has overshadowed what has often been the number one issue for the GOP - balancing the budget.
The final tally was not a slam dunk for the GOP, as 18 Republicans voted against the budget plan, as some more conservative lawmakers worried that it won't do enough to rein in spending, or bring down the national debt, while a number of moderates expressed displeasure about possible details in the GOP tax bill. The vote was 219-206.
The House GOP plan would add $2.6 trillion to the deficit before being balanced in 2027.
The House vote on the 'budget resolution' for 2018 was months behind schedule - it supposed to be done by April - coming a few days into the start of the new fiscal year, as the GOP tries to jump start action on tax reform.
While Ryan and Republicans hailed the budget vote, Democrats saw things differently, denouncing what they say is a budget plan that will cut spending for Medicaid and Medicare, and allowing for tax cuts that mainly reach the wealthy.
"Eighty percent of it would benefit the top one percent in our country," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who drew some jeers from GOP lawmakers in a speech on the floor of the House, as she jabbed at the Republican budget details.
"And guess what happens to the middle class? $470 billion in tax increases," Pelosi said, previewing the arguments to come over the details of the Republican tax reform package, which is not expected to draw much - if any - support from Democrats.
Democrats also savaged plans for entitlement reforms, arguing the "GOP budget would strip billions from Medicare, Medicaid, college aid, and programs that help our people," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
The House vote came as the Senate Budget Committee voted 12-11 to approve a slightly different GOP version of the budget outline for 2018; a full Senate vote is expected later this month. The two versions - which have some significant differences - will then have to merged in House-Senate negotiations.