WASHINGTON - House Republicans released their response to President Obama's deficit-laden $3.7 trillion budget yesterday.
The glossy pamphlet, short on detail, promises to cut domestic spending below current levels but makes it impossible to determine what deficit the GOP is projecting based on its numbers.
The document also promises to simplify the tax code and cut income-tax rates to 10 percent for people making $100,000 or less.
The pledge to cut domestic spending seems to include Social Security and Medicare, but Republican aide Matt Lloyd clarified later that the politically sensitive programs would not face outright cuts.
The GOP plan was issued two days after Obama criticized Republicans for offering criticisms of his budget blueprint, currently making its way through Congress, instead of solutions.
Republicans said that more details would be out next week, promising to provide spending amounts, revenue levels, and the size of the budget deficit in a more traditional format.
"We're going to show a leaner budget, a budget with lower taxes, lower spending, and lower borrowing," said Mike Pence of Indiana, the No. 3 Republican in the House. "And it's going to be a budget that says, 'Here's how best to get America out of this struggling economy.' "
But the party faces many of the same difficulties confronting its Democratic rivals as it pieces together its official response to Obama, especially after the Congressional Budget Office issued even bleaker deficit figures last week.
Republicans acknowledge privately that even after cutting domestic agency budgets and sharply curbing the growth of benefit programs such as Medicare, their budget will show a deficit. That surely will be the case if additional tax cuts promised by them are included.
At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs happily continued the mud fight.
"The administration is glad that the Republicans heard the president's call to submit an alternative," he said. "We just hope that next time it will contain actual numbers so somebody can evaluate what it means."
In the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, Democrats defeated a Republican attempt to reduce recommended spending across hundreds of programs over the next five years as they moved toward approval of a blueprint that preserves the president's top priorities.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) said his proposal would save $200 billion by freezing spending on nondefense domestic programs for the next two years and allowing modest increases in the future.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), chairman of the committee, said it went too far, adding that the budget he prepared already provided for less spending than the president wanted.
The members, including New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, the only area senator on the panel, rejected Sessions' proposal on party lines, voting 13-10.
Then they pushed through a recession-era budget, again in a party-line vote. It calls for spending of $3.5 trillion for the year that begins Oct. 1.
Senate Republicans have said they do not intend to introduce an alternative to the Democrats' budget, a decision that spares them the need to make politically difficult choices.