The Republicans in the House have a steep hill to climb to pass their controversial budget which includes cuts for school lunch programs and student loan assistance, according to the Washington Post.
...[F]or now, Republicans concede they are well short of the votes needed to pass a bill that would require longer work hours to qualify for welfare, allow states to impose new costs on Medicaid beneficiaries, cut assistance for child support enforcement, trim student loan spending, cut back agriculture supports, and curb eligibility for food stamps.
The Senate last week narrowly approved legislation that would trim about $35 billion from the budget over five years, but that bill largely avoided the direct cuts to beneficiaries of federal anti-poverty programs contained in the House budget measure. Those proposed cuts have created strong misgivings among some Republican moderates, especially since a five-year, $70 billion tax cut is awaiting action that would more than offset the savings in the budget cuts.
The Democrats are stepping up to challenge this mean-spirited budget package:
House Democrats have compiled lists of committee votes for cuts to agriculture, student aid, child support and health care programs, as well as for oil drilling in the Alaska refuge, that Democratic leaders vow to use in next year's midterm congressional elections.
"This is going to test whether moderate Republicans are really moderate," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "There are a ton of people who will have a day of reckoning coming."
This week, Democrats will hold a conference call with a Wisconsin college student to talk about student loan cuts and will serve lunch at a District school to highlight the budget's impact on subsidized school lunches. They will also stage a mock hearing to tar the entire budget as an effort to finance tax cuts for the rich on the backs of the poor.
It'll be interesting -- if not depressing -- to see how moderate Republicans vote on this. Either way, it's a win for the D's. If they moderate R's vote for what will surely be an unpopular budget, they are that much more vulnerable, as Emanuel points out. If they vote against it, we're spared an awful budget bill.
Update: The Hill provides more details about Democrats' plans to combat the budget in the court of public opinion:
House Democrats and their allies are planning a weeklong assault on the GOP’s proposed budget plan, hoping to kill an impending vote on budget cuts and highlight internal division within the Republican Conference.
Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, plans to hold the mock hearing tomorrow. Many of the caucus’s most senior members, such as Reps. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), George Miller (Calif.) and John Dingell (Mich.), will likely participate in the hearing, which will probably take place in one of the rooms in the Capitol controlled by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rather than the committee’s usual room in the Rayburn House Office Building, said a spokesman for Spratt.
Headlining the event will be Georgetown University freshman Reggie Douglas, a former member of his high school’s NAACP board, who will talk about how the proposed budget measures will affect him personally. Joining Douglas on the witness stand will be representatives from various special-interest groups addressing potential cuts to child support, agriculture programs and Medicaid.
At the mock hearing, Democrats plan to argue that the spending cuts will be used to fund tax cuts rather than reduce the deficit; that the cuts will threaten vital services such as Medicaid, student loans, child support and food stamps, some of which benefit hurricane victims; and that the budget resolution will still increase the deficit even after these cuts are taken into account.
Aside from the mock hearing, other members are heading up separate events this week.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and possibly the Congressional Black Caucus will hold an event on the Capitol steps to talk about “Republicans’ misplaced priorities,” according to a House Democratic aide.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and members of the caucus’s 30-Something Working Group are planning to serve lunch at a school in Washington to call attention to Republicans’ planned cuts in the school-lunch program.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) will host a conference call for reporters with a Wisconsin college student who is poised to lose student financial aid under the GOP plan.
On the floor, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) plans to coordinate a series of one-minute and special-order speeches throughout the week lambasting the budget plan.
Democrats will likely criticize the cuts using variations on internal talking points distributed last week.
According to Pelosi’s Morning Message Points from last Thursday, Democrats will tie the budget cuts to the plight of Hurricane Katrina survivors.
“Republicans are moving forward to impose even greater sacrifice on Katrina families with a fiscally irresponsible budget that cuts student loans, healthcare and rural programs,” read one bullet point.
The Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities, a labor-funded group aligned with Democrats, continues to pursue moderate Republicans in their districts, targeting 38 lawmakers in 16 states with press conferences and ads.