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Ryan Preps Republican Budget with Spending Cuts, Medicare Changes

The New York Times writes of a divided House on the question of whether to submit a budget below the targets defined in the spending cap of the debt limit deal, between hardline conservatives and members of the Appropriations Committee.

Trying to demonstrate anew their push to reduce the size of the government, conservative House Republicans want to cap spending on programs under Congress’s discretion well below the $1.047 trillion cap set by the budget deal last summer. But House Appropriations Committee leaders and Republican moderates, facing tough re-election campaigns, want to stick to the agreement struck with President Obama seven months ago.

“We voted for it. That’s the number we should use,” said Representative Charles Bass, Republican of New Hampshire […]

“The point is to lay that marker out there and say this is the preferred path forward,” said Representative Steven C. LaTourette, a veteran Republican from Ohio, “and then like so many things, the Senate and the administration are going to have to come up with some way to deal with it. I’m perfectly comfortable with that. What’s not worth it is to come up with some goofy, pie-in-the-sky entitlement reform that’s never going to happen, and that’s going to expose our members to criticism.”

I think Steve LaTourette is a candidate for party-switching in about 2-4 years.

But the conservatives, not LaTourette, appear to be winning this battle. Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan said today that he was ready to deliver a budget, and that he would announce it at an American Enterprise Institute event on March 20. It’s not clear where the total budget number will come out, but the indications are that they’ll go with at least a $1.027 trillion number, about $20 billion below the cap.

That’s a token reduction. But the budget resolution will also include the premium support plan for Medicare, which Democrat Ron Wyden endorsed late last year, that is seen as a deal-breaker for House Democrats. With the Medicare element, you cannot pass a budget resolution that relies on broad Democratic support. A budget at $1.047 trillion would lose support on the right and require that Democratic support. So clearly Ryan will go for the more austere figure.

House Republicans are already trotting out Wyden’s name to defend their policy, which would end the Medicare guarantee and transform it into a voucher that seniors could use on fee-for-service traditional Medicare or private plans. So good work on that one, Senator.

Meanwhile, Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon is dedicated to giving more money to defense than they’re requesting, and he has an ally in Democrat Carl Levin in the Senate. This would mean that whatever cuts proposed in the Ryan budget would probably tend toward a greater share of discretionary non-defense cuts than defense ones.

We’ve already seen how budget cuts in the states stunted economic growth for the last several years, and how they’re slated to continue. Republicans want to do the same thing at the federal level, and end Medicare as we know it for good measure.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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