GOP Sen. Mike Lee: Democrats defy "common sense" in budget debate

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, slammed the president and congressional Democrats for budgetary irresponsibility in the weekly GOP address Saturday, saying their desire to raise taxes and reluctance to reform entitlement programs defies "common sense."

"To Republicans, the budget isn't just about dollars; it's about sense: common sense," he said. "That's why the budget Republicans proposed in the House of Representatives puts its trust in the American people. We want dollars and decisions in your hands and not in the hands of bureaucrats.

"Democrats disagree. They think you don't send enough of your money to Washington. The Democratic budget increases taxes by one and a half trillion dollars, on top of the hundreds of billions they already added to your tax bills at the beginning of the year," Lee said, referring to a compromise inked at the start of 2013 that allowed taxes to rise on personal income in excess of $400,000 - a compromise supported by members of both parties, but not Lee.

"They have no plan to save our entitlement programs, even though everyone - even the president - knows that doing nothing to address the exploding costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security isn't an option," Lee said.

Instead, "the president's strategy is instead to cut spending on important services, like border security, first responders, veterans and law enforcement," Lee said, citing the recent release of "more than 2,200 illegal immigrants" by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for "quote 'budgetary reasons.'"

Early Saturday morning, by a thin 50-49 margin, Senate Democrats passed their first budget in more than four years, approving a plan that allocates $3.7 trillion in spending for next year and includes nearly $1 trillion in tax increases over the next decade. The plan would also pair the tax increases with an equal level of spending cuts, coming chiefly from health care programs, national defense and reduced interest on the debt.

The Senate budget would gradually reduce annual deficits to roughly $400 billion by 2016.

Republicans, for their part, have championed a House-passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that includes far deeper spending cuts and balances the budget within 10 years without the aid of tax increases.

Ryan's plan, assailed by Democrats as an unconscionable attack on the social safety net, would slash Medicaid, food stamps and a host of domestic spending programs. Perhaps most controversially, the plan would also transform the guaranteed benefits of Medicare into a private insurance subsidy for anyone aged 55 and younger when the bill becomes law, while keeping Medicare the same for Americans older than 55.

But the dueling budgets are only roadmaps, not binding spending bills. They provide a look at priorities but do not actually allocate any federal funds. The real action took place on Thursday, when the Senate amended and passed a continuing resolution sent to them by the House that provided funding to keep the government afloat for another six months, through the end of September.

  • Jake Miller