Alex Bolton, senior staff writer with The Hill newspaper.
A week after Republicans in the U.S. House released a budget plan, Democrats are unveiling their own vision for federal spending. Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen is sponsoring a $3.6 trillion proposal. It is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber, but it does offer a Democratic framework in an election year. Rebecca Blatt spoke with Alex Bolton of The Hill newspaper about the plan and the role Van Hollen is playing in the budget process.
How is the Democratic plan different from the Republican plan released last week?
"The Democratic plan differs from the Republican plan in several important respects. For one, it doesn't cut as much spending as the Republican plan. For another, it pretty much keeps the tax structure in place. It extends the Bush tax cuts for all families except those making over $1 million. The Republican budget would slash personal income taxes, it would condense the current 6 tax brackets into 2 tax brackets -- a 25 percent top rate and a 10 percent lower rate. It would also lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and scrap the alternative minimum tax. So the House Republican plan is a lot more aggressive than what Democrats have offered."
What role is Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen playing in this debate?
"He has emerged as the proxy for the House Democratic leadership in fiscal and tax discussions. He was a member of the conference that negotiated the 10-month extension of the payroll tax holiday, which was the biggest policy debate this year so far. Before that, in the fall, he was a member of the deficit reduction super committee -- which was tasked with coming up with a package to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. That failed, but the talks became the basis of finding ways to pay for other policy such as the payroll holiday extension. Before that, Mr. Van Hollen was part of the group that was trying to come up with a deficit reduction package that would allow Congress to raise the debt limit in August."
What does his involvement mean for his constituents in Maryland?
"For his constituents, they have a representative at the table in these high-level negotiations. Van Hollen is a strong defender of federal workers rights, he's been strenuous in opposing GOP plans to cut the federal workforce and freeze federal worker pay, and those proposals are ones that Republicans love to bring up when it comes time to pay for various initiatives, whether its the extension of the payroll tax cut or finding ways to cut spending to pay for other new initiatives."
What kind of movement do you expect to see on the Republican and Democratic plans?
"The Republican plan will pass the House, although it's going to be a pretty tight voice -- the Democratic chance has no chance of passing the House. Beyond House consideration, neither plan is going anywhere. It's possible that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would schedule a vote on the House Republican plan, but it's certainly not going to get the votes to pass. So these plans aren't going to pass -- it's just a matter of the parties setting down their markers prior to an election."