But all of that is not necessarily the point.
Rather, this longer-term spending proposal is more an exercise by Republicans to provide voters a road map, of sorts, of what they would do if they were totally in charge. Or, as Ryan said on Tuesday: “We also think it’s important to show our vision as a party for the future.”
Perhaps the budget that Ryan’s committee will mark up is really an accurate depiction of that GOP vision. Who knows?
The truth is, there is little political risk in throwing out ideas and principles, since Republicans know there is no immediate possibility of enactment. And seeing things through, as of late, has been a bit of a problem for House Republicans on a few other difficult budget matters where they ultimately retreated from their earlier positions.
For instance, many Republicans were unable last year to swallow some of the cuts to non-defense discretionary spending called for in a previous Ryan budget. Later, the ink wasn’t dry on a cut to military pensions, passed as part of the December budget agreement with Murray, when Republicans rushed to join Democrats in undoing the cut. And last month, just hours after President Obama unveiled his own fiscal 2015 budget plan to GOP catcalls about taxes and spending, scores of House Republicans joined with Democrats in voting to weaken reforms they had passed in 2012 to save billions of dollars in federal flood-insurance costs.
Yet, with this new Ryan budget plan, it seems, the GOP budget-cutting imagination is once again unleashed to run wild.
Sixty-two House Republicans opposed the Ryan-Murray deal, ostensibly because it did not seem to cut spending fast enough, though it was pegged specifically only to the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. As Ryan explains it, however, that was a “small, narrow agreement,” and he says he is not so much worried about similar internal GOP opposition to “this much bigger picture” that “does show a path to balancing the budget.” The federal government is now about $17.5 trillion in debt.
Some 40 percent of the $5.1 trillion in savings envisioned in Ryan’s “bigger picture” of the next 10 years is depicted as coming through a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In all, his plan would spend about $42.6 trillion over 10 years, compared with about $47.8 trillion under existing policies.
At the same time, Ryan’s budget does not say precisely what he would replace Obamacare with, only offering the expectation that it will be replaced. And Democrats, like Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, complain that Ryan’s proposal, even while scrapping the health care law, keeps all of its more than $700 billion in Medicare savings, as well as $1 trillion in revenues from Obamacare.
Ryan and the second-ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, Tom Price of Georgia, say that what they are really doing is stopping a “raid” on Medicare funding under the Affordable Care Act, and keeping the money inside the program. And comprehensive tax reform, they say, would replace some of the related taxes.