News Column

GOP Budget Plan Offers Big Changes

March 21, 2012

Susan Davis


House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a budget that would fundamentally alter the social safety net, repeal President Obama's health care law, cut billions in spending and overhaul the federal tax code in order to reduce -- but not eliminate -- the federal deficit over the next 10 years.

Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the proposal was philosophically rooted in reducing Americans' reliance on the federal government. "It's about turning our system that has become a dependent culture into an upward mobile society, getting people back onto lives of self-sufficiency," he said.

The budget resolution is non-binding and will not become law, but it offers a stark contrast to the fiscal blueprint offered by Obama this month, most notably on health care and taxes, and stands to reignite the debate over the best fiscal path forward in the United States.

Democrats intend to use Ryan's budget to campaign against candidates from the presidential to the congressional level, particularly on the GOP's broad endorsement of a plan to alter the structure of Medicare for future beneficiaries.

Ryan acknowledged and dismissed the political risks of voting on a non-binding proposal for sweeping changes to popular programs in an election year. "If we simply operate based on political fear, nothing is ever going to get done," he said. The House Budget Committee he chairs will debate the bill this week, and a vote is expected on the floor before Congress adjourns for the Easter holiday.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination for president will largely embrace the House GOP budget, Ryan said. "We do believe that our nominee, whoever this person is going to be, is going to be perfectly consistent with this," he said. "I've spoken to all of these guys, and they believe that we are heading in the right direction."

Highlights of Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" budget include:

Changing Medicare to allow future beneficiaries under the age of 55 to opt out of the system and instead receive federal money to purchase private health care on a Medicare exchange.

Changing the Medicaid program to a block grant system giving states more control.

A full repeal of Obama's health care law.

Spending cuts that would affect a range of programs, from farmers' subsidies to federal college loans.

Tax proposals to eliminate tax breaks and consolidate the current six individual tax brackets to two -- 10% and 25% -- and a reduction of the corporate tax rate to 25%.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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