The long-term GOP budget plan authored by Ryan, the party’s failed vice presidential nominee, offers slashing cuts to domestic agencies, the Medicaid health care plan for the poor and “Obamacare” subsidies while exempting the Pentagon and Social Security beneficiaries. The measure proposes shifting programs like Medicaid to the states but is sometimes scant on details about the very cuts it promises.
The Ryan measure revives a controversial plan to turn the Medicare programs for the elderly into a voucher-like system – for future beneficiaries born in 1959 or later – a program in which the government would subsidize the purchase of health insurance instead of directly paying hospital and doctor bills. Critics say the idea would mean ever-spiraling out-of-pocket costs for care, but Ryan insists the plan would inject competition into a broken system.
“This is an uncompromising, ideological approach to our budget issues,” said top Budget Committee Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. The American people voted, and they resoundingly rejected the approach that is now taken, once again, for the third year in a row, in this Republican budget.”
The cuts to domestic agencies like the FBI, Border Patrol and National Institutes of Health could approach 20 percent when compared with levels agreed to as part of a hard-fought budget deal from the summer of 2011. That could run the already troubled appropriations process – it features 12 spending bills that are supposed to be passed by Congress each year – into the ground.
Fresh from passing the 2013 wrap-up measure, the Senate was turning to a plan by new Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would add nearly $1 trillion in new taxes over the coming decade in an attempt to stabilize the $16 trillion-plus national debt. But Murray’s plan would actually increase government spending after the $1.2 trillion cost of repealing the automatic cuts, called a sequester in Washington-speak. That means the net cuts to the deficit would amount to just a few hundred billion dollars in a federal budget estimated at $46 trillion or so over the coming decade.
“We need to tackle our deficit and debt fairly and responsibly,” Murray said. “We need to keep the promises we’ve made as a nation to our seniors, our families, and our communities.”
At issue is the arcane process by which Congress approves a budget. It involves special legislation, called a budget resolution, that sets nonbinding targets for taxes and spending but relies on follow-up legislation to go into effect.