Steve LaTourette and his U.S. House colleague, Jim Cooper, took pride in the harsh words hurled at their budget proposal from the left and the right. The Northeastern Ohio Republican joined the Tennessee Democrat in putting forward a spending plan based on the framework of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. They wanted to set an example of bridging differences to address the country's severe fiscal challenges.The wailing from both sides signaled that they were doing something right. Ultimately, the plan received just 38 votes, 22 Democrats and 16 Republicans, when the House voted last week. That it wasn't the vehicle for further give and take, leading to a compromise budget, offers further indication of the deep divide on Capitol Hill.LaTourette and Cooper deserve applause for trying, for crafting a plan that would raise new revenue and make spending reductions. Their work also provides a platform for discussing what is the right balance to strike in constructing a budget that gets at the problem of huge deficits without jeopardizing key priorities.Worth emphasis are the ways the LaTourette-Cooper proposal differs from the Simpson-Bowles recommendations. For starters, it would raise roughly $1 trillion less in revenue during the next decade. So, instead of equal parts revenue increases and spending reductions, LaTourette and Cooper rely much more heavily on the latter.Consider that the two lawmakers would cut more deeply into nondefense discretionary spending, or those items that cover the core operations of government, from law enforcement to education, from parks to medical research. They would lop off an additional $300 billion. They would do so as they spent $200 billion more than the Simpson-Bowles panel proposed for defense.To their credit, LaTourette and Cooper take aim at curbing the growth in large entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They would set limits on annual spending on health care, with the target of allowing increases equivalent to the growth in the economy plus 1 percent. The trouble is, the number of beneficiaries promises to expand at a much faster pace as baby boomers move through the system. Better to have a per-beneficiary adjustment.In that way, spending more likely can be curbed without risking as much harm.The LaTourette-Cooper proposal also lacks sufficient flexibility in easing the requirements if the economy encounters trouble. Such criticism merely seeks to make the plan better, to achieve something more in line with the balance of Simpson-Bowles, or the bipartisan proposal of Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici. Send the plan to the Senate, where adjustments could be made, and Congress would take a path toward responsible budgeting. Unfortunately, that isn't the prevailing thought on either side, LaTourette and Cooper with the support of too few colleagues.