Tom Harkin: House Republicans Have Morphed Into 'A Cult'

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats attacked the "Cut, Cap and Balance" measure on Wednesday, calling the House-passed bill "devoid of substance" and "dead on arrival" in the Senate, where it will receive a vote later this week.

Senate Democrats contended the bill is evidence that Republicans, especially those in the House, are intent on changing Medicare and preserving tax breaks for the wealthy.

"The sad thing is America no longer has a two-party system," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said at a press conference Wednesday. "One of our two parties has morphed into kind of a cult driven by a singular fixation and obsession: preserving tax breaks for the wealthy at all costs."

Harkin, along with fellow Democrats Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), rebuked the House GOP for voting Tuesday to approve the Cut, Cap and Balance bill, a Tea Party-backed plan that includes major spending cuts, capping spending at 18 percent of GDP and a commitment to vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment.

"Once again the radical right is more worried about protecting their next election than protecting the greatest generation or the next generation," Mikulski said at a press conference. "What a sham, what a scam. I'd be tempted to blow it off if it weren't so cruel, stupid and dangerous."

The Senate will vote on the bill within the next few days, with Democrats planning to vote it down. Schumer called the bill "dead on arrival" in the Senate, and President Barack Obama issued a veto threat earlier this week.

There's no whip count for Republicans yet, but a senior GOP aide brushed off the criticisms from Democrats.

"23 Senate Dems are on record in favor of a balanced budget amendment, so yes, it's a little surprising to see them attacking it," the aide said in an email. "Particularly when they haven’t even produced a budget."

Senate Democrats said the bill was wasting valuable time that would be better used to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department estimates must be raised by Aug. 2 to prevent the government from beginning to default on its loans.

Harkin said the same wing of the Republican party that opposes raising the debt ceiling also voted for the Cut, Cap and Balance bill.

"The fight is not between Democrats and Republicans, it's Republicans and their cult fringe, as I refer to them out there," Harkin said. "You'll find all sorts of Republicans who are willing to let this country go down the tubes on their ideological deal."

Clarification: This article has been updated to reflect the exact spending cap level as a percent of Gross Domestic Product.

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