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WASHINGTON -- The Republican-controlled House approved a budget blueprint Wednesday that relies on nearly $5 trillion in cuts to eliminate deficits over the next decade, calls for repealing President Barack Obama's health care law and envisions transformations of the tax code and Medicare.

Final passage, 228-199, came shortly after Republicans bumped up recommended defense spending to levels proposed by Obama.

Much of the budget's savings would come from Medicaid, food stamps and welfare, programs that aid low earners, although details were sketchy. The Republican-controlled Senate will vote on its own version of a budget later, possibly by week's end.

The plans themselves are nonbinding 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 after campaign victories in the fall gave them control of both houses of Congress.

Republican Reps. French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack of Arkansas voted in favor of the House budget plan Wednesday. Rep. Rick Crawford, also a Republican, voted against it.

"The budget blueprints put forward today called for the passage of a balanced budget amendment for the first time since I was elected to Congress, but without any legal binding authority, this non-binding resolution can be ignored and no action has to be taken," Crawford said later in a statement. "Sadly, since being elected to Congress, we have voted only once on permanent spending controls in the form of a balanced budget amendment that was required by law as a result of the Budget Control Act.

Until Congress accepts that non-binding budget resolutions are ineffective without a permanent law like a balanced budget amendment or spending limitation amendment, the budget process will only be an exercise in futility and our debt crisis will continue on its current path."

The House plan calls for $5.4 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade, including about $2 trillion from repeal of the health care law. Nearly $1 trillion would be saved from changes to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, which aid low earners.

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.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and chairman of the House Budget Committee, called the plan a "balanced budget for a stronger America" -- and one that would "get this economy rolling again."

Democrats rebutted that the GOP numbers didn't add up and called the policies wrongheaded.

"People who are running in place today are not going to be moving forward under the Republican budget, they're going to be falling back," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said.

The prospect of sending Obama legislation to repeal the health care law contributed to the unusual degree of unity among House conservatives. Without a budget in place, they noted, the repeal measure would not have special protection against a Senate filibuster -- and would not reach the White House.

But the president has vowed to defend the health care law, which stands as his signature domestic achievement.

As they have in recent years, House Republicans also called for the transformation of Medicare into a voucherlike program. Senate Republicans omitted that from their plan.

Both the House and Senate plans call for an overhaul of the tax code.

The House's defense spending plan evolved as the budget moved through the House Budget Committee and across the floor.

As drafted by the panel, it called for $610 billion for the Pentagon for the coming budget year. Of that, $87 billion would come from an account that supports overseas military operations, and $21.5 billion would be dependent on offsetting spending cuts elsewhere.

On a vote of 219-208, Republicans raised the overall level to $612 billion, none of it contingent on offsetting savings.

Obama's budget called for $612 billion in defense spending. Republicans have said they want to exceed his recommendation, and they may decide to raise their level further in House-Senate compromise talks.

House Republicans said their budget would yield a surplus of $13 billion in 2024 and $33 billion in 2025.

Democrats scoffed at the claim. They pointed out that such an outcome would rely in part on allowing $900 billion in popular tax breaks to expire as scheduled, and it also assumed that tax increases would be retained from the health care law that Republicans want to repeal.

By contrast, Obama's budget would fail to eliminate deficits, despite the presence of nearly $2 trillion in higher taxes.

Information for this article was contributed by Erica Werner of The Associated Press.

A Section on 03/26/2015

Print Headline: House OKs proposal to cut $5 trillion

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