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Congress charts new collision course over deficit

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 2:36 am •  Published: January 24, 2013

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called the new Republican goal "Ryan on steroids." She was referring to earlier Republican budgets drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the party's 2012 vice presidential nominee.

Ryan's earlier plans would have changed Medicare into a voucher-like program with limited government contributions to health care for seniors. His plans, endorsed by most House Republicans, also would have given states full responsibility for running Medicaid — the health care program for the poor — with a reduced federal contribution.

Even with those changes, Ryan's 2011 and 2012 plans would not have balanced the federal budget for decades.

As part of the deal putting off the debt limit showdown, the Democratic-run Senate made concessions of its own: It agreed to debate and pass a budget for the first time in three years. That exercise will force senators to commit themselves to politically distasteful spending cuts and tax increases that they previously had avoided.

Democrats, including President Barack Obama, say new tax revenues must be part of any eventual bipartisan budget accord.

"As we go forward to reduce the deficit, we need growth and job creation, we need spending cuts, we need revenue," Pelosi said during Wednesday's House debate.

Democrats say new limits on tax breaks that mostly go to high-income households could generate billions of dollars in revenue.

But Republican leaders, noting that Democrats achieved a 10-year, $600 billion revenue hike as part of the "fiscal cliff" compromise earlier this month, say further tax hikes are off the table.

The Republicans' "no new taxes" mantra has clashed many times with Democrats' vows to protect government programs. The result, for years, has been deficit spending.

The latest House and Senate decisions will merely heighten that debate.

Democratic senators, no longer able to sidestep budget details, are certain to renew their push for tax increases to accompany further spending cuts. And House Republicans have made their deficit-reduction goals harder to achieve by promising to balance the budget in 10 years instead of, say, 30.