Latest GOP Budget Is Ambitious, Unlikely to Pass
Ryan's budget again seeks changes to Medicare, namely by establishing an exchange of private plans (including traditional Medicare) from which seniors could choose, with the assistance of a premium support voucher. The plan would apply for those under the age of 54 — a threshold one year younger than past Ryan proposals — and also employ means-testing, in which wealthier seniors pay a higher share of their premiums.
The Ryan budget also calls for repealing the health care reform law (though it would leave in place savings from cuts in payments to medical providers, a component against which Ryan and Mitt Romney railed during last fall's campaign).
The campaign also focused heavily on Ryan's past budgets, as Obama and Democratic candidates downballot railed against similar proposed changes to entitlement programs. Those attacks offered a vivid illustration of the political difficulties in putting such aggressive reform plans to paper. That experience helped inform the GOP's demand that Democrats produce their own alternative budget, through which Republican staffers will surely comb to exploit politically.
Ryan's own budget isn't short on additional conservative prescriptions, either. The 2014 budget calls for sweeping tax reform, with a goal of cutting the top corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and simplifying the income tax into two brackets. The tax cuts would be financed by closing loopholes and deductions in the tax code.
The Republican budget will also touch upon other social programs. It would block-grant Medicaid to states, and allow states more flexibility, too, in implementing welfare programs. Ryan's plan would also freeze the current maximum support for students awarded as Pell Grants, a popular program with students (and young voters) that Obama had expanded in his first term.
The proposals, as a whole, amount to a deeply conservative set of proposals offered against the backdrop of new hopes for bipartisan fiscal talks in Washington.
Obama's renewed outreach — and Republicans' relatively warm reception of it — has stoked the embers of hope that lawmakers may finally reach the kind of grand fiscal deal that has eluded them during the past few years. As Ryan unveils his new budget, Obama's own reaction could either preserve these renewed hopes, or allow them to wither after just a few days.
To that end, Obama was set to speak to House Republicans on Wednesday, and Senate Republicans on Thursday. He was also scheduled to give an interview to ABC News on Tuesday, which could be his first on-camera reactions to Ryan's new proposal.