Six months after the congressional supercommittee failed to come to a long-term deal on federal spending, House Republicans reignited the debate Thursday by passing legislation that would stop looming defense cuts and instead cut hundreds of billions of dollars from entitlement programs.
The legislation, passed on a 218-199 vote, is unlikely to advance beyond the House. The Senate hasn’t shown any interest in holding a budget debate this year, and the White House said President Obama likely would veto the House bill if it reaches his desk.
But it serves as a marker in a debate that all sides expect to play out as the end-of-the-year deadline for the defense cuts grows nearer.
“This is a small step in the right direction,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the man who wrote the outlines of the GOP plan. He said Republicans should be proud they are using the budget process to try to cut spending, after years in which it was used to pass the president’s health care initiative or, under Republicans in the past decade, to push through tax cuts.
The defense cuts were set into motion by last year’s debt deal, which allowed the president to raise the government’s borrowing limit but called for spending cuts to go along with the increase. The supercommittee, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers, was supposed to try to replace the automatic cuts, known as sequesters, with more careful trims, but failed — leaving the ax to fall at the end of this year.