WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans unveiled their latest budget outline on Tuesday, sticking to their plans to try to repeal the law they call Obamacare,” cut domestic programs ranging from Medicaid to college grants and require future Medicare patients to bear more of the program’s cost.
The point is to prove it’s possible to balance the budget within 10 years by simply cutting spending and avoiding further tax hikes, even though the fiscal blueprint released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be dead on arrival with the White House and Democrats controlling the Senate.
The latest Ryan plan generally resembles prior ones, relying on higher tax revenues enacted in January and improved Medicare cost estimates — along with somewhat sharper spending cuts — to promise balance.
Senate Democrats plan to offer a counterproposal on Wednesday with higher spending on domestic programs and additional tax hikes on top of the higher rates imposed on top-bracket earners in January. That plan will, in turn, arrive as a dead letter in the GOP-controlled House.
At issue on Tuesday and beyond is the arcane and partisan congressional budget process, one that is unlikely to illustrate a path forward in a gridlocked Washington. At stake are so-called budget resolutions, which are nonbinding measures that have the potential to stake out parameters for follow-up legislation cutting spending and rewriting the complex U.S. tax code.
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But this year’s dueling GOP and Democratic budget proposals are more about defining political differences — as if last year’s elections didn’t do enough of that — than charting a path forward toward a solution. Congressional budgets often simply state party positions, and invariably are partisan endeavors.
The partisan exercise comes even as President Barack Obama travels to Capitol Hill later on Tuesday to meet with Senate Democrats in an attempt to resuscitate his failed efforts for bipartisanship.
Ryan, who became a national GOP figure as the losing vice presidential nominee last year, has for now settled back into his wonkish role as Budget Committee chairman and chief tutor for dozens of relatively junior Republicans. He’s also armed with a full battery of budget bromides.
“We’re introducing a budget that balances in 10 years — without raising taxes,” Ryan said in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “How do we do it? We stop spending money the government doesn’t have.” All told, Ryan’s plan would slash $4.6 trillion in spending over the coming decade.
“On the current path, we’ll spend $46 trillion over the next 10 years. Under our proposal, we’ll spend $41 trillion,” Ryan said. “On the current path, spending will increase by 5 percent each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4 percent.”
Ryan’s plan promises to cut the deficit from $845 billion this year to $528 billion in the 2014 budget year that starts in October. It would drop to $125 billion in 2015 and hover pretty much near balance for several years before registering a $7 billion surplus in 2023.
The House Budget Committee has scheduled a vote on the measure Wednesday, and the Senate Budget panel is slated to vote Thursday on rival legislation by new Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., who promises new tax revenues but few cuts from domestic programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
“We are working towards fair and balanced, which is what the American public has said time and time again that they want,” Murray said. “We need to make sure that everybody participates in getting us to a budget that deals with our debt and our deficit responsibly.”