Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
House GOP proposes balanced budget plan
WASHINGTON -- Republicans in the House of Representatives on Tuesday proposed a plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years, their opening bid in a clash with President Barack Obama over how best to curb soaring budget deficits and eventually stop the debt from climbing.
Their plan would cut or slow federal spending, repeal spending on the new health care law while keeping some of its spending cuts, and change Medicare substantially -- all while cutting income tax rates.
Democrats rejected the proposal, saying it used "fuzzy math" to balance the books. As they did, Obama started making his own pitch to lawmakers of both parties in the first of three days of visits to Capitol Hill.
Republicans rallied to their budget blueprint, laid out by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee. It was largely a reprise of a plan he proposed last year that became a centerpiece of the GOP presidential campaign.
"The election didn't go our way … that means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in? Look, whether the country intended it or not, we have divided government," Ryan said Tuesday.
This year's plan has all the flash points that Obama and congressional Democrats have railed against for years: changes in the Medicare program, slower growth in spending and repealing the 2010 health care law.
Ryan's Republican-dominated committee will formally write the legislation today, the day the president is scheduled to meet with House Republicans. Senate Democrats will offer their own plan today, and Obama will formally propose his budget April 8.
Ryan's plan would balance the budget in 10 years. He aims to reduce projected deficits by $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years.
His plan would cut the projected growth in annual spending from 5 percent to 3.4 percent. Though he wants to repeal the health care law, he also proposes to use the $716 billion that the law would cut from Medicare to help reduce the deficit.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Ryan's budget dead on arrival to the Senate.
"The Paul Ryan budget 3.0 uses the same fuzzy math as his previous two budgets," Reid said. "It relies on accounting that is creative at best and fraudulent at worst to inflate its claims of deficit reduction."
The White House also made it clear that it intensely disliked the Ryan plan.
"This budget would turn Medicare into a voucher program, undercutting the guaranteed benefits that seniors have earned and forcing them to pay thousands more out of their own pockets. We've tried this top-down approach before," spokesman Jay Carney said. "The president still believes it is the wrong course for America."
Obama was looking beyond the day's partisan drama, seeking the kind of "grand bargain" to bring down deficits that's eluded him for years.
He met with Senate Democrats for 75 minutes, and said little beyond "Hello, everybody" to about 200 reporters as he exited the lunch session. Senators who attended the session described it as cordial.
The president talked extensively in the session about getting a "grand bargain" with Republicans to reduce deficits over a long term, the kind of deal they'd tried to negotiate two years ago.