House approves Ryan budget, departs for two-week recess

Chris Moody

The House on Tuesday approved Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal, which, if implemented, would defund the federal health care law, balance the federal budget in 10 years and overhaul the nation's entitlement programs. The measure passed with 220 votes, just two more than it needed to pass.

But it's not going to be implemented.

The proposal, a political document that serves as more of a vision for how Republicans would govern if they had full control over the House, Senate and the White House—call it a GOP wish list—serves as a starting point for debate with Democrats on the government's future.

Many of the provisions are similar to the House budget passed last year, including measures to change how the federal government pays for Medicare. The newest iteration of the Ryan budget would:

- Repeal Obamacare, the federal health care law passed in 2010. (But keep its tax revenue. More on that in a moment.)

- Slow the growth of federal spending by about $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years by overhauling Medicare and cutting discretionary spending on domestic programs.

- Balance the budget in 10 years with an assist from new taxes implemented in the "fiscal cliff" deal passed earlier this year and new taxes from health care law.

"Will the president take every one of these solutions? Probably not," Ryan said when he unveiled the budget earlier this month. "Are a lot of these solutions very popular and did we win these arguments on the campaign, some of us think so. So what we're saying is, Here's our offer. Here's our vision. Here's how we propose a plan to balance the budget and grow the economy, repair the safety net, save Medicare. We hope that the Senate actually follows suit and shows their vision. Because if they actually put their plan on the table, we can start talking. Then we can start looking for common ground. We think that's a constructive way forward, and that's why we're doing this."

On Wednesday, the House took a series of votes on alternative budget resolutions proposed by both Republicans and Democrats. None passed, but the votes provided insight into the spending priorities of individual members. After voting on the Ryan budget, the House approved a measure to continue funding the government through the current fiscal year and then depart on a two-week recess for Easter and Passover. The next vote in the chamber is not scheduled until April 9.

Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to vote on a Democratic budget plan later this week—the first time since 2009. Unlike the Ryan budget, which achieves a balanced budget through spending cuts, the Democratic plan slows the growth of federal spending through a combination of discretionary spending cuts and tax increases.