MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
We begin this hour on Capitol Hill where House Republicans unveiled their version of a budget for the coming year. The plan calls for significant cuts to food stamps and Medicaid along with a repeal of President Obama's signature Affordable Care Act. Here's House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price.
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CONGRESSMAN TOM PRICE: Our balanced budget for a stronger America saves $5.5 trillion, gets to balance within 10 years without raising taxes.
BLOCK: Senate Republicans will release their budget proposal tomorrow. Both plans are expected to present sharp contrasts to President Obama's spending priorities. And NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to talk through some of this. Scott, we heard Congressman Tom Price talk about saving $5.5 trillion over the next decade. How did they get there?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Melissa, this is a belt-tightening budget. House Republicans would slow the growth in a variety of safety net programs including food stamps and Medicaid. They'd also turned those programs over to the states to manage. And they're talking about replacing Medicare for future retirees - that is people who are 56 and younger - with a voucher type program those people could then use to buy private insurance. That's something that has been in House budgets for several years now. It's never really gone anywhere, but Democrats have used it as a political weapon.
BLOCK: Well, no surprise that the budget blueprint that the president came out with last month offers a very different version. What has he had to say about the Republicans' plan?
HORSLEY: Well, the president sees this as a case of misplaced austerity. He knows that deficits have already been shrinking rapidly. His own budget called for lifting the spending caps that were adopted several years ago so that the United States could increase both its military spending and its domestic spending by roughly equal amounts. He wants to invest more money in things like early childhood education, public works programs, free community college - all things that he says the Republican plan leaves out.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What we're seeing right now is a failure to invest in education and infrastructure and research and national defense - all the things that we need to grow to create jobs, to stay at the forefront of innovation and to keep our country safe.
HORSLEY: One big question is going to be, what happens with defense spending? While the House budget does add tens of billions of dollars to an overseas war fighting fund, Obama argues any increase in defense spending should be matched with an equivalent boost in domestic programs.
BLOCK: Scott, help us out here 'cause these budgets are always referred to as nonbinding blueprints. Why do they matter?
HORSLEY: None of these budgets will automatically result in any changes to what the government collects in taxes or spends. That takes another signed piece of legislation to do that. Instead, what these budgets really are is political documents that help frame the tax and spending debate. They'll showcase differences between congressional Republicans and the White House. And when the Senate budget comes out tomorrow, we may also see division within the Republican ranks. There are defense hawks, for example, who want to see a more explicit increase in military spending. There are deficit hawks who want to hold the line on that and there are Republican senators up for reelection in blue and purple states who may be wary of endorsing big changes in Medicare.
BLOCK: And if the House and Senate can agree on a budget, Scott, what happens then?
HORSLEY: Well, that opens the door to a procedural tactic called reconciliation, which basically prevents Senate Democrats from filibustering. So, for example, Republicans could vote to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority. Now, the president would still have his veto pen. Reconciliation doesn't change that. But this does set the stage for a more explicit showdown between the White House and the Congress.
BLOCK: OK, NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks.
HORSLEY: My pleasure.
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