WASHINGTON – The House passed President Bush’s fiscal 2004 spending plan on a largely party-line vote early Friday, and Maryland lawmakers followed suit, with all the state’s Democrats voting against the measure.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, crossed party lines to vote against the plan. Only Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, voted for it from Maryland’s delegation.
The budget resolution also sets “appropriate budgetary levels” for fiscal 2003 and 2005 through 2013, and includes $726 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, has called the Republican tax plan “an albatross around the necks of the American people as well as future generations.”
“The Republican budget is nothing more than a cynical, calculated political document designed solely to provide huge tax cuts to the most affluent,” Hoyer said in a statement released before the vote. “To pay for it, the House GOP proposes funding cuts for Medicaid, student loans, scientific research, food stamps, education and veterans’ benefits.”
But Bush said the budget, with its tax cuts, would create new jobs and stimulate the economy.
“With passage of the budget resolution, the House has spoken clearly that future economic growth and job creation requires passing the bold plan that I proposed,” the president said in a statement. “I commend the House for its timely action and look forward to working with Congress to ensure the we fund our priorities, enact policies to spur growth, and restrain spending.”
Bartlett was one of only 12 Republicans to vote against the resolution, which was approved shortly before 3 a.m. Friday on a 215-212 vote, with eight members not voting.
Bartlett voted against the budget resolution because it contained text that would add a new entitlement for senior citizens who have prescription drug plans, said Lisa Wright, his spokeswoman.
Democrats have attacked the measure for its tax cuts, saying that it will cause a huge deficit and take funding from needed programs.
In a conference call Tuesday, the state’s six Democratic House members charged that the tax cuts will mean little to the average Marylander and will reduce funding for things like after-school and COPS programs, so the wealthy can get a tax break.
“The budget would be good if it stimulated the economy,” Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, said at the time. “But it will really hurt the economy.”
The Senate was still debating the budget Friday evening.
Aides to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., would not predict how she might vote since the Senate was still deliberating on budget amendments.
Calls to the office of Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., were not returned. But Sarbanes said earlier this month that Bush’s proposed budget “lacks prudence and wisdom.”
“I don’t think any prudent person facing the set of challenges and working in the economic situation in which we are working would set out to commit the nation to a long-term fiscal policy that has this kind of deficit impact,” Sarbanes said then.