House GOP budget advances, but a quiet death is expected in Senate

The House GOP today passed a 2012 budget that cuts discretionary spending to 2008 levels or below while trimming the federal workforce and vowing to eliminate "bureaucratic barriers" to domestic energy production.

The 235-193 vote marks a moment of heightened political but little practical import, as the House fiscal framework is all but certain to run aground in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Instead, the two parties already are battling to define the GOP budget -- the president's party shaping it into a campaign-trail cudgel and Republicans touting it as the high-water mark for deficit reduction -- ahead of renewed battles over the value and direction of government spending.

"With this budget, House Republicans are changing the culture in Washington from one of spending to one of savings," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a floor speech on the plan, which saw only four GOP lawmakers join every Democrat in opposition. The four Republicans who voted against the bill were Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), David McKinley (W.Va.), Ron Paul (Texas) and Denny Rehberg (Mont.).

Before the Republican budget passed, a Democratic alternative that would add billions of dollars in clean energy and environmental spending as well as roll back oil industry tax benefits failed on a 166-259 vote. Twenty-three Democrats, all but a handful aligning with the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, joined every Republican in opposing their party's plan.

In addition to its promise of expedited domestic fossil-fuel production, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) measure would achieve a 10 percent reduction in the federal workforce over three years and encourage an overhaul of the current agricultural subsidy structure (Greenwire, April 5).

The GOP budget would yank funding for closely held energy priorities of the Obama administration and pare back transportation spending while ruling out any transfers from the government's general fund to federal road, rail and bridge programs.

That latter move left environmental advocates crying foul today, with U.S. Public Interest Research Group transportation associate Dan Smith lamenting in a statement that the Ryan budget "goes after successful transit and rail programs with a meat ax."

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