House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., holds a copy of his budget proposal ‘The Path to Prosperity’ during a news conference on the FY2012 budget resolution on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)
Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, unveiled a highly-anticipated and sweeping 2012 budget proposal Tuesday that would cut entitlements and rearrange the tax code with the goal of reducing federal spending and reducing national debt.
The plan represents the first serious attempt by either party in Congress to tackle the country’s long-term debt problem, even as the House Republican leadership and the White House spar over the relatively tiny cuts proposed in a short-term budget for the rest of the fiscal year.
Ryan’s budget would cut $6.2 trillion in spending over the next decade and reduces the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. It also converts Medicaid spending into block grants and transforms Medicare into a privatized system for those 55 and younger.
Ryan addressed the question of whether his plan was too great a political risk for his party during his news conference.
“This isn’t a budget, this a cause…we are here to try to fix this country’s problems. And if that means we have to go first and offer solutions, fine,” Ryan said. “We cannot keep going down the path of fearing what the other political party will do to us if we don’t try to solve a problem. If we keep going down that path, then we know what that future looks like.”
Ryan was surrounded at the unveiling of the 73-page report by Republicans from the House Budget Committee, in addition to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R- Ala., the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Minutes after Ryan and his Republican colleagues rolled out the sweeping ‘Path to Prosperity,’ House and Senate Democrats began portraying it as an assault on the social safety net for American seniors.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., was one of the first to respond to Ryan’s plan.
“Next year’s Republican budget is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle Medicare for tens of millions of Americans,” Stabenow said in a statement. “Pulling the rug out from under seniors who have paid into Medicare and Social Security their entire lives is wrong, and extreme plans that dismantle benefits seniors have earned will not pass the Senate.”
Ryan’s Democratic colleague on the budget committee, Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, also immediately dismissed the plan.
“To govern is to choose, and it is not courageous to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies, and other big money special interests while slashing our investments in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans. That’s not courageous, it’s wrong,” Van Hollen’s statement said.
The swift reaction highlights the political barriers of tackling government debt, and the blossoming commitments to Medicare and Medicaid driving that debt. Any Republican House budget plan that proposes steep entitlement cuts would be difficult to pass through a Senate controlled by Democrats.
Judy Woodruff will interview Ryan Tuesday afternoon on Capitol Hill. The Rundown will have a video excerpt of that interview as soon as it is available.