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Budget Bomb-Throwing Resumes With Party Line Vote


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. For years, budget battles have ruled Washington politics: fiscal cliffs, debt ceiling fights and, of course, last fall's government shutdown. But then, in December, the House and Senate agreed on a two-year spending plan and the budget bomb-throwing stopped. Today, it resumed just long enough for the Republican-controlled House to pass a budget.

NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now to talk more about this. And Tamara, you reported on this big agreement in December when you were covering the Hill. Why did the House go through the trouble of voting on its own budget?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, that's the big question here, the Democratically-controlled Senate isn't coming up with its own separate spending plan and there's really no practical reason for the House to do this because of that agreement. But budgets are about message. They're vision documents and what Republicans in the House are saying with this budget is that if they had it their way, they'd set different priorities.

Also, they've made such a deal out of the budget process over the years, they kind of had to do it again. Eric Cantor is the majority leader.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: We have passed a budget every year since taking the majority. So let's now stand together and fulfill one of the most important duties that we were elected to do and pass a budget that the American people that sent us here can be proud of.

CORNISH: And they did manage to pass it, 219 to 205. Now this is with every Democrat voting against it and 12 Republicans peeling off and voting no. Tell us what's in this budget.

KEITH: It cuts $5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years and it would eliminate the annual budget deficit by the end of that decade. It envisions dramatic changes. It would turn Medicare for future retirees into something more like a voucher system. Medicaid, food stamps, other social safety net programs would take hits and that's what Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rallied Democrats around as she urged a no vote on the House floor earlier today.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: In order to finance this special interest privilege that is in the Republican budget is a statement of your values to cut over 170,000 children from Head Start. Is that a statement of our values?

KEITH: It would also repeal Obamacare and calls for an overhaul of the tax system that would lower the top rate for the wealthiest Americans.

CORNISH: Tamara, listening to that last part, sounds very, very familiar. In fact, I feel like you may have said the very same things last year. Is there anything new in this budget?

KEITH: Not much, actually. The changes from year to year, even over the last three budgets, have been pretty minimal. And as with the last three budgets, Democrats hope to make political hay out of all the cuts that this budget envisions and Republicans says they aren't really worried about that because it hasn't hurt them that bad in the past. And come election time, they plan to be able to say, look, Senate Democrats didn't pass a budget and Democrats in the House refuse to support this thing that would've cut the deficit. So could be an election issue or it could just be that they talk about healthcare the whole time, all election season.

CORNISH: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith back in the budget mix today. Tamara, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.