New Ryan plan emphasizes balanced budget, promises to cut $4.6 trillion in decade

Chris Moody

The House Budget Committee on Tuesday unveiled a federal budget blueprint that Chairman Paul Ryan says would balance the federal budget within 10 years and slow the growth of federal spending by $4.6 trillion over that time.

The 96-page proposal serves as a political document that outlines the tax and spending vision of House Republicans. Lawmakers hope it can be used as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats over a plan to balance the federal budget.

The ideas within the blueprint are largely similar to past proposals from Ryan's budget team, which include an overhaul of the nation's entitlement and welfare programs, and reductions to discretionary spending.

The most blaring difference this year is that Ryan's proposal finds a way to balance the budget in 10 years, instead of the 30-year goal outlined in past budgets. To accomplish this, it relies heavily on new revenue from the higher tax rates imposed as part of this year's "fiscal cliff" negotiations. The law also assumes the repeal of President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law, which Congress passed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.

In a press conference with other Republican members of the House Budget Committee on Tuesday, Ryan defended his decision to use the new tax revenue imposed during the Obama era while stripping the health care law out of his estimates.

"We're not going to refight the past. Law is law," Ryan said. When pressed by reporters why he stripped the health care law out of the budget projections, he said: "We believe that this law is going to collapse under its own weight. ... This to us is not something that we're going to give up on."

Ryan's entitlement reform proposals, the most contentious part of his plan, include changing Medicare for those born after 1959 to give them an option between the traditional Medicare program and a system in which the government provides subsidies to buy health insurance on a private market.

Ryan's budget would also means-test Medicare, taking incomes of seniors into account when doling out benefits. On Social Security, the Ryan budget is not nearly as ambitions in its reform recommendations. He proposes new requirements on federal employees to pay more into their own retirement plans and calls for reform of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., but the outline is light on other, more substantive reforms to the New Deal-era program.

Ultimately, as written, the plan is not expected to become law in its entirety, but it does provide insights into the vision of the Republican Party over the next decade. The Democrat-led Senate is expected to release its own budget blueprint later this week.

Ryan conceded that Democrats will not accept every part of his plan, but said it gives both parties an opportunity to begin negotiations on debt and deficit reduction.

"Will the president take every one of these solutions? Probably not. 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," Ryan said. "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."