WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House Budget Committee said Saturday that a 2009 spending blueprint passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress will restore funding for health care, energy and education while leading to a balanced budget by 2012.
Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., said the budget plan rejected proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and would broaden the Children's Health Insurance Program. The plan would also add nearly $5 billion to the Veterans Affairs health care system in 2009, he said.
In his party's weekly radio address, Spratt promised the bill would address skyrocketing fuel prices by spending more on home energy assistance for low-income families. "As for funding for alternative fuels, renewable energies and other energy initiatives, our budget provides $7.7 billion," he said.
The House approved the $3.1 trillion budget plan Thursday; senators passed the measure Wednesday. The nonbinding measure does not go to President Bush but instead sets guidelines for future action by Congress.
Spratt said the plan "returns the budget to balance in 2012, with a surplus of $22 billion."
That prediction, however, relies on some questionable assumptions. The plan would achieve the surplus goal only by allowing many of Bush's signature tax cuts to expire and by eliminating any funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after next year.
Still, Spratt said: "The federal budget is like a battleship, badly off course. We cannot steer it to balance overnight, but we are moving it in that direction, applying fiscal discipline, but not at the expense of the values and priorities that we as Democrats hold dear."