Eager to draw a contrast with President Barack Obama on taxes and spending, Republicans controlling the House are releasing on Tuesday an election-year budget plan that would impose sharp cuts on many programs in hopes of taming trillion dollar-plus deficits, but would still fail to reach balance over the coming decade.
Republicans are expected to again propose politically sensitive curbs on Medicare —though less dramatic than last year's plan — and they're already rewriting last year's budget pact with Obama to cut domestic agency budgets.
The resulting political battle is sure to spill beyond the Capital Beltway into the presidential campaign and contests for control of the House and Senate this fall.
As if to underscore that reality, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a campaign-style video Monday evening telling viewers that "Americans have a choice to make" in a none-too-subtle appeal to voters.
"It's up to the people to demand from their government a better budget, a better plan, and a choice between two futures," Ryan said.
"The question is: Which future will we choose?" The House budget panel is slated to debate and vote on the measure Wednesday in hopes of a vote by the full House next week.
Just as Obama's budget was dead on arrival last month with Capitol Hill Republicans, the House GOP plan is a nonstarter with Democrats controlling the Senate.
On Monday, two powerful Senate committee chairmen sent top House GOP leaders a letter protesting a GOP plan to cut agency operating budgets funded annually by Congress below levels negotiated last summer.
Instead of going with a $1.047 trillion cap on agency budgets, as called for under last summer's debt and budget pact, the House panel is looking at cutting domestic agencies by $19 billion more.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, warned that breaking the agreement only guarantees delays later this year and "represents a breach of faith that will make it more difficult to negotiate future agreements." Republicans also say the measure will include special instructions to House committees to scrub the programs under their jurisdiction for savings that could be used to forestall about $100 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in January.
Those cuts, including $55 billion from defense accounts, are punishment for the failure of last year's supercommittee to come up with a new package of $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over the next decade as part of the deal to let the government keep borrowing.
The GOP plan would bundle the new cuts from various committees and try to pass them as early as this spring.
They might include various proposals discussed by the supercommittee, including curbs on federal employee pensions and new steps to prevent illegal immigrants from claiming the refundable child tax credit.
"The country wants to be spoken to like adults, not pandered to like children," Ryan said Tuesday on CBS's "This Morning." The Wisconsin Republican said, "If you want to save Medicare and keep it from going bankrupt, you must reform the program, and that's what we intend to do." Ryan said he has grown weary of the GOP being accused of endangering the benefits that senior citizens have come to expect.
"We preserve the program for people in and near retirement," he said.
"We want to take all the empty promises our government is making and make sure they're not broken promises."