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Pay-As-You-Go Plan Fails in Senate

Times Staff Writer

The Senate barely beat back a proposal Wednesday that would have thrown up a procedural roadblock to tax cuts sought by President Bush.

A proposed amendment to the Senate Budget Committee’s version of the 2006 federal budget would have required that legislation to increase spending or cut taxes include spending cuts or tax increases, so that the deficit would not be increased. Without offsets, such legislation would require a 60-vote majority of the Senate.

Five Republicans joined all 45 Democrats in voting for the so-called pay-as-you-go amendment. But the other 50 Republicans, arguing that the amendment was designed to prevent tax cuts, voted no, and it lost on a 50-50 vote.

But the Senate did soften the committee’s spending cuts, adding $1.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $500 million for education programs and $410 million for veterans’ health benefits.

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Meanwhile, the House began floor debate of its version of the budget. With scant hope of success, the sorely outnumbered Democrats on the House Budget Committee proposed a document with fewer spending restraints than the version approved by the full committee last week.

But a potential revolt in the House by conservatives from the nearly 100-member Republican Study Committee, which demanded that the budget embody stricter antispending procedures, was short-circuited. In a deal with party leaders, the study committee accepted an opportunity to file motions declaring spending bills out of order if they exceeded totals in the congressional budget.

A majority of the House could waive the point of order and pass the bill, but in full public acknowledgment that the bill was a budget-buster.

“I think it’s a big victory for everybody,” said Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), who brokered the deal as a member of both the Republican leadership and the Republican Study Committee. “I think a lot of Democrats will be happy with this too.”

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