Senator Mike Lee says Senate Democrats' budget is a moral error
Politics • Utah senator did not vote for GOP plan, either.
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Washington • By calling for a tax increase while resisting attempts to reform Medicare and Social Security, Democrats are making the wrong moral choices and defying "common sense," Sen. Mike Lee argued in the GOPs weekly address Saturday.

Lee, R-Utah, contrasted the Senate budget passed in the wee hours of Saturday with the one favored by House Republicans, which would drastically reduce the size of government and balance within 10 years.

"Budgets are economic documents, but they're much more than that," said Lee. "Budgets reflect the moral choices we make as a nation and shape the kind of society we will build for the future."

The Senate budget would raise roughly $1 trillion in new taxes, largely on the wealthy, and reduce spending by about the same amount targeting domestic programs, the military and savings on reduced interest payments on the debt.

The House budget would raise no new taxes, would eliminate President Barack Obama's health reform law and would turn Medicare into a program in which seniors would get a subsidy to buy insurance on the private market. The plan wouldn't impact any Americans who are now at least 55 years old.

These budgets are blueprints only, nonbinding documents that show each body's priorities and set the stage for fiscal negotiations going forward.

In his address, Lee said the House Republican budget "puts its trust in the American people," though Lee, himself, voted against that budget when it was offered in the Senate, one of only five Republicans to do so.

Lee said he couldn't support the House budget because it would keep tax revenue from health reform and would maintain increased tax rates that went into effect at the beginning of this year, though he appreciated its push for a balanced budget.

"We should spend only what we need to cover the constitutionally authorized functions of government and not a dollar more," Lee said. "That's why we support reforms to fix the programs Washington should be funding, to eliminate the programs it shouldn't, and balance the budget."

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama focused on gun control, calling on Congress to vote on bills that would expand background checks, increase penalties on gun trafficking and reinstitute a ban on assault weapons.

He said the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. three months ago, changed the nation and that the American people have demanded some action to reduce gun violence. And similarly to Lee discussing federal budgets, Obama said the ideas he backs are "common sense."

"We have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America, and prevent the very worst violence," the president said. "We have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our tradition of responsible gun ownership, and also do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or people with a severe mental illness."

None of Utah's six members of Congress have supported any of the gun control bills being debated in the Senate. Early Saturday morning, Lee tried to force a vote on an amendment that sought to make it tougher to change gun laws. He wants to require a two-thirds majority to pass any of the new gun laws the president has sought. The Senate blocked a vote on Lee's amendment.

"Americans are appalled by criminal acts of mass violence," Lee said. "However, Americans also recognize that there are limits to the problems that can be solved with new legislation."

mcanham@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mattcanham