House OKs Budget Plan With Education, Health Care Spending Increases

The House Thursday narrowly passed a $2.9 trillion Democratic budget blueprint predicting a big surplus in five years but relying on the expiration of tax cuts to do so.

The 216-210 vote sets up negotiations with the Senate, which last week passed a budget blueprint with similarly large spending increases for education, defense, homeland security and veterans programs.

The measure comes in response to Democratic complaints that Bush has shortchanged domestic programs funded each year by appropriations bills — including education, health research and grants to local governments — while awarding deficit-boosting tax cuts tilted toward the affluent.

Democrats said the $2.9 trillion plan for next year would point the way to a surplus after years of red ink under Bush and a GOP-controlled Congress. Republicans said that $153 billion surplus in 2012 would appear only if tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 expire in four years — amounting to the "largest tax increase in American history."

The future of the Bush tax cuts will likely be decided after the 2008 presidential election. While in the majority, congressional Republicans never held votes to make all of them permanent, despite Bush's annual calls to do so.

Bush huddled with House Republicans at the White House, saying afterward: "We spent time talking today about our strong belief that we've got to keep taxes low."