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What House Republicans hope next year’s budget will look like

House Republicans revealed their 2016 budget plan, pushing for deep cuts to lower the deficit, while preserving defense spending. What are the political calculations behind the proposal? Political editor Lisa Desjardins joins Gwen Ifill for a look at the priorities fueling the GOP budget.

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  • Gwen Ifill:

    A new budget plan released today by House Republicans reveals the yawning partisan chasm that still exists when it comes to taxes and spending, as the GOP pushes for deep cuts and a balanced budget, and Democrats say the budget needs to grow. As always, the choices are not that simple.

    Joining me with the story of the policies and priorities behind the budget debate is NewsHour political editor Lisa Desjardins.

    Thank you for joining us again, Lisa.

    And maybe you can explain this for us. They’re talking about $5 trillion in savings in this proposed budget that the House leaders put out today. What does that represent?

  • Lisa Desjardins, Political Reporter & Editor:

    Five trillion dollars in savings is over 10 years. That represents two priorities for Republicans.

    What they are choosing with this budget, let’s just put it simply, is they’re choosing to try to pay down the debt. They would balance the budget in a remarkable nine years. Usually, it’s 10 years. And then the other priority they’re choosing here, Gwen, is defense. Even as they’re paying down the deficit and the debt ultimately, they also are increasing spending for defense.

    That’s a bit like trying to dig out a hole even as you’re putting more dirt in it. It’s very ambitious. Because those are their priorities, this would mean dramatic cuts for everyone else, for discretionary funding, which means most of government. Very hard to see these cuts taking place without government layoffs, for example.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    That kind of austerity that they’re calling for, the president came out today and basically said, hey, we need infrastructure, we need to spend on all these things, and, by the way, the economy is doing better now, there won’t be an appetite for it.

    Does he have a point?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Democrats are going to come back to this again and say, look at what we have done. We have already cut the deficit by tremendous amounts. This is overreach by Republicans. They’re not looking at what America wants. Democrats argue America wants jobs. They’re not worried about the debt as much.

    I think that’s the debate that is going to play out here. What the calculus is — not everything is political, but there are a lot of politics in this document. They’re calculating that their core, their Republican base still cares so much about the debt that it’s worth proposing these very strong cuts, not only to agencies, but also Pell Grants, for example, would have sort of less stable funding under this plan.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Does the budget process itself — I think that word process always puts people off, but it seems to me there is a reason why these kinds of priorities are put forward in a budget proposal, especially one that we routinely say may not go as far as they’d like. What is the purpose for putting this stuff in a budget proposal?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, I could see our viewers saying, why are they even talking about this?  This is just a budget. It isn’t binding.

    But this is, Gwen, is, this is a show of what Republicans’ priorities are. That’s one. This is their one chance in a gridlocked Congress to say, here’s what we stand for, and here’s why it’s especially significant. A budget falls under special rules in Congress. You can get a budget through the Senate with a magical 51 votes, instead of 60 votes, and Republicans are going to latch on to that.

    One thing they have in this budget that is major policy priority, the repeal of something called Obamacare.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Well, I wanted to ask you about that, because this proposal, in order for it to balance out the way they have it planned, you would not only have to repeal Obamacare, but also cut back the Dodd-Frank financial reform regulations that are in place, and that doesn’t sound like anything that’s going to be bipartisan.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    No, it’s not going to be bipartisan.

    But they know that the only way they are going to actually get a repeal of both of those through the Senate is to attach it to the budget and go through that special budget rule that lets you pass things with 51 votes. Everyone knows the president will still veto that policy if it comes to his desk, but they want to make a statement here. They want to have both chambers try and pass this.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    And the one thing that they agree, that both sides agree they don’t want to cut is defense spending. Right?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right.

    The defense agency, Pentagon, anything to do with defense, which is not just the Pentagon, does well in this budget. One thing to watch for that is in this budget is, they have increased funding to a fund that’s just for war contingency spending. Some people call that a slush fund. The Pentagon says it’s a fund that’s important.

    But it deals with how the Pentagon operates on foreign soil fighting terror, and Republicans have increased that fund.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    So interesting. We will be following this. And I know you will.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Oh, yes. I love it.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Lisa, I know you do.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Lisa Desjardins, thanks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sure.

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