WASHINGTON - House and Senate Republicans steamed ahead Tuesday toward likely approval of balanced budget outlines, essential early steps along a path to send President Obama legislation to wipe out his five-year-old health-care law and eliminate deficits within a decade.
Obama is all but certain to veto the legislation if and when it reaches his desk, but Republican rebels and establishment-minded conservatives alike in the House paid that little mind.
"I campaigned ... with my heart and soul to get rid of Obamacare, and it's the one shot that we've got to get something on his desk," said Rep. Matt Salmon, an Arizonan who occasionally clashes with his leadership.
At a news conference, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third-ranking GOP leader in the House, cited two reasons for the rank and file to approve the budget, saying it would "get our economy moving again, and also set the stage for a repeal of Obamacare."
Democrats criticized the plans in both houses without letup, particular the repeal of the health-care law and the billions of dollars in recommended cuts to social programs at the heart of the GOP deficit-reduction program.
Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Senate Republicans' budget protects the super-rich as it "takes health care away from 16.4 million Americans . . . wreaks havoc on Medicare ... makes drastic cuts to Medicaid ... and guts nutrition assistance for those in need."
Said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D., Texas): "It would devastate American families."
A final vote was expected Wednesday on the House plan, and late Thursday or early Friday on the Senate's slightly different version.
Next, Republicans hope to forge a compromise budget quickly, settling on nonbinding targets for spending and taxes. After that would come legislation to implement the plan, a bill that congressional rules say cannot be subjected to a filibuster in the Senate.
While the House and Senate budget proposal plans differ, they both hew to the same principles - an overhaul of the tax code and an end to red ink in 10 years or less.
That would mean roughly $5 trillion in cuts in projected spending over the next 10 years, much of it from the presumed repeal of the health-care law, and the balance from changes to Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and other benefit programs.
The House proposal also called for remaking Medicare into a voucher-like program in which new beneficiaries beginning in 2024 would shop for coverage from private insurers.