Senate prepares budget blueprint to ram through tax cut for rich
Two GOP senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (left) and Susan Collins of Maine (right), who held out against Trumpcare, caved in this time and backed the tax cut plan for the rich. | AP

WASHINGTON—By a 51-49 margin on the evening of October 19, the Senate, along party lines, passed a budget blueprint for the fiscal year that started this month – a blueprint whose main function is to clear the way for a big tax cut for the rich. Only Sen. Ron Paul, R-Ky., voted against his party’s line.

And unions and their Democratic allies don’t like that.

The solons spent much of the week of October 16-19 debating the budget, which the GOP-run Senate Budget Committee approved by party-line votes the week before. The GOP-run House approved its own budget blueprint earlier in the month.

Prior votes, all along party lines, defeated Democratic attempts to kill the tax cut. Amendments that lost included: Barring it entirely, barring any tax cut that benefits the top 1 percent, barring it if it would increase the deficit, and barring it by restoring the $1.5 trillion in cuts to other programs, notably Medicaid and Medicare, the GOP used to pay for their tax cut for the rich.

Once the House and Senate hash out a combined version of the budget blueprint, they can go ahead with both spending cuts and the tax cut. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can jam those measures through under special “budget reconciliation” rules letting him pass them with only 50 votes, plus Vice President Pence as a tie-breaker, out of the 52 Republican senators.

McConnell won over two key Republican moderates, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, to debating the budget blueprint, if not the tax cut itself.

“There are a number of things we don’t like” in the Senate budget resolution, Government Employees (AFGE) Legislative Director Thomas Kahn told an October 17 telephone press conference. Levels of “discretionary spending” – for everything from federal fire fighting to national parks to education aid and labor law enforcement – “are far too low.”

But unlike the House’s budget blueprint, “It does not have mandatory cuts to federal employees. The House budget would cut a minimum of $32 billion out of the employees, their kids, and the retirees,” he said, citing both higher pension contributions and a small pay hike.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., the Senate Budget Committee’s top Democrat, says it’s a lot worse than that, with the tax cut for the rich as its looming centerpiece. His amendment barring any tax cut that would help the top 1 percent was one of those that went down the drain on October 19.

“In total, the Republican budget would cut more than $5 trillion over the next decade from education, health care, affordable housing, child care, nutrition assistance, transportation and other programs that working people desperately need,” he said.

“The budget would make it harder for children to get a decent education, harder for families to get the health care they desperately need, harder for families to put food on the table, harder to protect our environment and harder for the elderly to live their retirement years in dignity.

“The Republican budget is a massive transfer of wealth from working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor to the top 1 percent. Not only would it cut Medicaid by $1 trillion, it would also cut Medicare by more than $470 billion in order to pay for hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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