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Senate rejects Lee's plan to balance budget in five years

Published May 16, 2012 6:15 pm

Washington • Budget chairman criticizes 'serious mistakes' in plan's math.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Sen. Mike Lee on Wednesday offered his blueprint for the future, which includes a flat tax, a budget that's balanced in just five years and vastly retooled federal health programs.

His proposal was one of five budget plans offered by Republicans all of which were rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate. Lee's went down to defeat on a vote of 17 to 82.

"Supporters of the status quo will have every excuse as to why this budget or that budget won't work," Lee said during the debate. "But now is the time to stop making excuses and start making progress."

A budget resolution seeks to set benchmarks for Congress to follow, but is not law. Republicans have hammered Democrats in the Senate for failing to pass a budget resolution in the past three years. Democrats have argued that with a divided Congress, short-term budgets have passed through negotiations between the Senate and the Republican-led House.

Majority Leader Harry Reid called the resolution debate "a series of political show votes" that wasted a day, while Lee and Republicans accused Democrats of "a lack of leadership."

One of the five proposals was modeled after President Barack Obama's budget and it garnered zero votes. Others were offered by a trio of freshman GOP senators, including Lee, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Lee's proposal is largely copied from the Heritage Foundation plan. It would eliminate the payroll tax and create a flat income tax for individuals and companies. His plan also would have drastically changed Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In one example, it would offer Medicaid recipients a tax credit to buy coverage on the open market.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., didn't criticize the policy goals in Lee's budget, but its math, saying it had "the most serious mistakes" he has seen in his 26-years working with federal budgets.

mcanham@sltrib.com