Top Republican unveils $98B in cuts to social programs

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2016 7:10 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior House Republican on Thursday reprised a proposal to cut child tax credits for immigrants working in the U.S. illegally.

Powerful Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, also wants tougher rules to reclaim overpayments of health insurance tax subsidies under the new health care law as part of package to cut spending by $98 billion over 10 years.

The move is part of an effort designed to help GOP leaders make progress in passing the House's annual budget blueprint.

The spending cuts are designed to move in tandem with the GOP budget plan to ease tea party opposition to the broader measure. A band of conservatives opposes the nonbinding budget plan since it endorses last year's bipartisan budget and debt deal, which increased spending for annual agency budgets.

GOP leaders such as Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., have floated the idea of $30 billion in spending cuts over the next two years as a way to build support for his broader budget plan. Those cuts would grow far larger over a decade.

Brady is the first chairman to publicly step forward. The Ways and Means panel has extensive jurisdiction over taxes and health care and Republicans on the panel have fashioned a variety of ready-made proposals for cutting spending.

"The American people want Congress to fight fraud and cut wasteful spending — and that's what these bills do," Brady said in a statement.

Later Thursday, the Energy and Commerce panel announced a vote next week on a less ambitious package that would cut the federal government's contribution to the State Children's Health Insurance Program, eliminate a fund that provides grants for disease prevention, and cut off a loophole that allows winners of big lottery prizes to stay on Medicaid. It would save $25 billion over 10 years.

Other committees may be more reluctant. The Agriculture panel, for instance, is fiercely protective of farm subsidies.

And Senate Democrats would be sure to block the cuts if a vote were scheduled in that chamber. Some moderate Republicans might be reluctant to go along as well.

The cuts affecting immigrants would deny a refundable child tax credit to immigrant workers who don't have a Social Security number but use an IRS identification number to file their taxes. Opponents say the cut means their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens since they were born here, won't benefit from the tax credit. It would save almost $5 billion over two years.

The plan to take back subsidies under so-called "Obamacare" would save more money, almost $9 billion over two years. It would apply, for instance, to people whose income or employment situations improve and make them no longer eligible for the size of the credit they have claimed.

Brady would also eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, which provides flexible grants to states for services to the poor such as foster care, protective services for children, and day care. Brady's staff called it "no-strings-attached slush fund for states."

Democrats oppose the cuts and have made sure in the past that they have gone nowhere as part of bipartisan budget packages.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement that Brady's proposal portends "another attack on families struggling to join the middle class. Rather than attack poverty, it appears Republicans continue to attack the poor."

The annual congressional budget resolution is a nonbinding blueprint that sets goals for follow-up legislation. While it sets broad parameters, it doesn't actually increase spending or impose cuts by itself.