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Michigan reps split on budget

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Michigan’s congressional delegation split on a $3.8 trillion Republican budget Wednesday night.

The House passed the budget 228-199, with no Democrats supporting it and 17 Republicans opposing it. Only Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, broke party ranks and opposed.

The budget calls for repealing the health care law and envisions transformations of the tax code and Medicare.

Much of the budget’s savings would come from Medicaid, food stamps and welfare, programs that aid the low-income, although details were sketchy.

The Republican-controlled Senate is likely to approve its version of a budget by week’s end.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, a first-term representative and member of the Budget Committee, used the budget debate to push Republicans to do more to address long-term health care needs.

“Long-term care is a concern that nearly every American family will confront in coming years. We’ve made great strides to improve our healthcare system in the last few years, but we still don’t have a comprehensive, long-term plan for how seniors can get the day-to-day help they need for the basic tasks of living, like bathing and getting dressed in the morning,” she said.

“That leaves seniors to rely on a patchwork of help from family members, community organizations, and puts a burden on Medicare and Medicaid. The Democratic budget contains language we authored that would allow the House to consider legislation to begin to resolve the long-term care crisis in our country. It’s an important priority, and it’s an important statement that it’s been included in our alternative budget.”

Dingell said Republicans and Democrats need to work on the issue. “It’s not going to go away,” she said, after the GOP rejected the Democratic alternative.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said after the vote that Obama has been clear that he will reject a budget that locks in deep spending cuts or increases funding for national security funding without providing matching increases in “economic security” funding.

“The administration will continue to abide by these principles moving forward,” Earnest said.

The plans themselves are non-binding and do not require a presidential signature. Instead, once the House and Senate agree on a common approach, lawmakers will have to draft legislation to carry out the program that Republicans have vowed to follow in the wake of campaign victories last fall that gave them control of both houses of Congress.

Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, said the budget focused on deficit reduction.

"Every mom and dad in Southeast Michigan will tell you that they can't spend more money than they take in each year,” he said. “They have to balance their budgets — and so should Washington. A balanced budget will create a healthier economy and make it easier for hard-working Michigan families to make ends meet.

“It's time that we start forcing Washington to finally live within its means. This budget plan also takes power from Washington and returns it to our state and local governments. The federal government has grown tremendously in recent decades — resulting in more wasteful spending, more debt, and more rules and regulations from Washington. I believe by restoring the principle of federalism we can pave the way for a more effective and efficient government. And that is what Michigan families expect and deserve.”

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, also praised the budget. Republicans voted for the budget even though the White House released statistics saying the program cuts would impact hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan.

“I supported the House budget because it balances over 10 years, without raising taxes, while placing greater emphasis on national security, which is a core function of our government,” he said.

“We must support our brave men and women in uniform and keep our families safe at home and abroad. We must also address our growing fiscal issues in a timely manner, and we can do so by providing long-term, meaningful reforms that reduce the size of government. Our seniors, middle class and future generations are relying on us to take a responsible approach to reduce federal spending and pay off the debt. Our families wouldn’t operate any other way, and Washington shouldn’t either.”

The House plan calls for $5.4 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade, including about $2 trillion from repeal of Obamacare. Nearly $1 trillion would be saved from from Medicaid and CHIP, health care programs for the low-income, and $1 billion from other unspecified benefit programs. Another $500 billion would come from general government programs that already have been squeezed in recent years by deficit-reduction agreements between Congress and the White House.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.