WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday approved sweeping legislation to cut $310 billion from the deficit over the next decade — much of it from programs for the poor — and to shift some of that savings to the Pentagon to stave off automatic military spending cuts scheduled for next year.
The legislation has no chance of passing the Senate and will not become law. The White House issued a veto threat, saying the bill would “fail the test of fairness and shared responsibility.” But its prescriptions and priorities could define the 2012 congressional elections — and are likely to affect the race for the White House.
Republicans framed the fight as a test of seriousness, saying their party was the only one willing to make the difficult choices necessary to tame the deficit. President Barack Obama’s polices are “not working,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman.
“We need to change these policies. We need to grow the economy,” he said. “We’re leading.”
Democrats said Republicans had become captives to a pledge never to raise taxes, foisting on Congress a draconian plan that “asks more from those who have less and less from those who have more,” as Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, put it.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the budget committee’s ranking Democrat, said: “If you say from the beginning you’re not going to ask people making a million dollars a year to help do a little more to reduce our common deficit, if you say you’re not going to ask companies that have these tax loopholes that actually incentivize them to ship jobs overseas to pay a little bit more, what do you do? Your budget has to whack everyone else.”
The bill’s political sensitivity came through in the 218-199 vote. Democrats were united in their opposition. Sixteen Republicans sided with the Democrats, and one Republican voted present.
The legislation laid bare a small portion of the details needed to fill in the broad strokes of the House Republican budget that passed in March. That budget instructed six committees to find at least $261 billion in savings from domestic programs and policies to defuse $55 billion in automatic Pentagon cuts scheduled to hit Jan. 1 under last year’s agreement to raise the federal debt limit.
To do that, the committees cut food stamps, children’s health insurance and Medicaid, and eliminated the Social Services Block Grant to state and local governments, among other things.