House Passes Bill Stemming Defense Cuts

The House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon to pass the GOP's plan to replace the sequestration or automatic cuts that would have slashed the defense budget with another set of budget reductions that curtail domestic programs.

The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, which passed 218-199 with one member voting present, received no Democratic support. Sixteen House Republicans joined 183 House Democrats in opposition.

The bill, designed by Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, aims at stopping waste in the food-stamp program by ensuring that individuals are actually eligible for the taxpayer benefits they receive.  It also would slash Medicaid spending and cut funding to implement Obama's health care law.

Republicans warned that the automatic cuts Congress agreed to last year would place an unfair burden on troops and military families, who would suffer the brunt of Washington's "failure to budget responsibly."

Democrats contend that the legislation weakens reforms put into place following the financial crisis, but the GOP says it will save billions of taxpayer dollars by prohibiting future bailouts for those perceived "too big to fail."

Afterwards, Ryan called on President Obama and Congressional Democrats to act to replace the sequester as well.

"House Republicans took action today to ensure our troops, hardworking taxpayers, and key priorities such as cancer research and border security don't pay the price for Washington's failure to budget responsibly. We invite the President and his party's leaders to join us in our efforts to address the near-term threat of the sequester and to meet the defining challenge of our generation: ensuring greater opportunities for generations to come."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi the GOP plan "clearly defines the values and vision of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party."

"I wish that this were a statement that we could come together on," she said. "On what our priorities are for the education of our children, job creation for our workers, retirement and health security for our seniors, safety in our neighborhoods and the air our children breathe and security for our country all done in a fiscally sound way, nothing partisan, nothing political about that. Except instead of finding common ground, we see two different paths in these budgets, one that says we choose millionaires over the middle class, that would be the Republican budget, one that undermines our investment in our children, their education, their health, the job security of their families."

The Budget Control Act, signed into law last summer, requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs, over the next decade, with the first $109 billion due to take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

The vast majority of Democrats agree with most Republicans that Congress should work to avoid the effects of the sequester, but assert that the GOP goes about it the wrong way by prioritizing defense spending and protecting tax cuts for the wealthy while undercutting the country's social safety net and other programs intended to build the middle class.

Democrats contend that the Republicans' plan would increase the number of children, senior citizens, and others without health insurance and eliminate the Social Services Block grant, which supports programs like Meals on Wheels for 1.7 million seniors and child protective services for at-risk children. Additionally, 326,000 women would not get the breast cancer screenings they are slated to receive in FY 2013 and 284,000 women would not get the cervical cancer screenings they are slated to receive in FY 2013.

The Republicans who did not support the measure were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Charlie Bass (N.H.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Christopher Gibson (N.Y.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Tim Johnson (Ill.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Ed Whitfield (Ky.), and Frank Wolf (Va.). Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.) voted present.

The House bill approved today has no chance of passing the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, or being signed by the president, but it will set up the battle lines for the fall campaign.