UPDATE 2-House vote sets up Republican budget as manifesto, target

Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:39pm EDT

* House passes Ryan budget 228-191, 10 Republicans vote no

* Measure expected to fail in Democratic-controlled Senate

* Deficit manifesto for Republicans, Medicare target for Democrats

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - U.S. House Republicans passed congressman Paul Ryan's deficit-cutting budget plan on Thursday, setting it up as a central theme for their election-year campaign efforts and as a target for Democratic attacks over its proposed healthcare cuts.

In a preview of the messages they will carry home to their constituents during a two-week break, Republicans hailed the plan as a bold step toward reining in U.S. deficits, while Democrats decried it as an assault on the cherished Medicare healthcare system for the elderly.

The Ryan blueprint, which proposes to cut tax rates and slow the growth of federal debt at the expense of social programs, won House approval by a vote of 228-191, with Democrats unanimously opposed. Ten Republicans also voted no, reflecting desires among fiscal conservatives for even deeper spending cuts.

The measure faces certain death in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but some of its components, especially proposed reforms to Medicare, will live on in campaign ads, debates and speeches for months to come.

Republicans, including presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, are portraying the Ryan budget as a bold, brave step toward shrinking deficits that have ballooned to trillion-dollar levels during each year of Democratic President Barack Obama's term.

They hope it will help win voters who are profoundly worried about growing U.S. debt and Obama's stewardship of a still struggling economy.

"The House budget and my own plan share the same path forward: pro-growth tax cuts, getting federal spending under control, and strengthening entitlement programs for future generations," Romney said in a statement after the vote.

Should Romney win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Obama in November, he would likely resurrect the Ryan plan as a "ready-made deficit reduction template," said Ethan Siegal, who advises institutional investors on Washington politics.

Ryan, 42, has been frequently mentioned as a potential Republican vice presidential candidate. He said on Sunday that he would consider that role if offered.

Often warning that a European-style debt crisis is looming for the United States, Ryan insisted that voters were ready to hear the difficult truth about the need for cuts to restore fiscal sustainability.

"People deserve to be spoken to like adults, not pandered to like children. They deserve solutions. They deserve specifics," he told a news conference after the vote.

MEDICARE CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED

The Ryan plan would deeply cut the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor by turning it into block grants for states, and it reprises his effort last year to prevent Medicare from "going bankrupt."

It proposes a voucher-like system to help the elderly buy private health insurance or access to the traditional fee-for-service Medicare system.

Democratic lawmakers said they would make the election a referendum on the Ryan plan, which the White House said would "shower millionaires and billionaires with a massive tax cut paid for by ending Medicare as we know it."

During the two-week congressional recess, which began on Thursday, lawmakers will meet with constituents to hear their concerns. They are likely to face questions over unemployment, high gas prices and their prescriptions for tackling deficits. Republicans could find themselves on the defensive over Ryan's Medicare proposal, analysts said.

"Ryan's prescriptions are difficult to explain and extremely difficult to soundbite," said Greg Valliere, a Washington policy analyst with the Potomac Research Group.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has rolled out a new campaign video starring actor Martin Sheen - who portrayed a U.S. president in the popular "West Wing" television drama - saying that Republicans "want to sacrifice Medicare in order to give tax breaks to special interests."

The Democratic campaigns immediately sent out press releases in districts where Republicans face tight re-election races to highlight the lawmakers' support of the Ryan plan.

Republican campaign operatives are already working to counter the Democratic onslaught, portraying Obama's status-quo for the program as bankrupting Medicare and the Ryan plan as saving Medicare for future generations.

Andrea Kozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, said Republican ads also will remind seniors that Obama's healthcare law, derided as "Obamacare," would cut some $500 billion from Medicare through reductions in payments to doctors.

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Comments (8)
abbydelabbey wrote:
Think about this: Ryan firmly advocates and follows the philosophy of Ayn Rand which basically says: Only the rich are “deserving” and the poor are mere parasites who are only fit to serve the rich.

Mar 29, 2012 4:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Henry_Stanton wrote:
My family used to be staunchly Republican, but I have seen nearly all of us declare independence, and a few now identify as Democrats. We’re not stupid, and we’re tired of having the futures of our children and gradnchildren whittled away by blatant greed. This budget is just one more example of a party completely out of touch with the needs of our country and the world, and we’re not buying it. I wish more people would look at the actual facts and issues and stop voting for the Red team or the Blue team. You don’t have to be a Democrat or Liberal to realize the Republican Party is doing damage to ordinary people.

Mar 29, 2012 4:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Naksuthin wrote:
I Would be totally in support of Republican’s efforts to cut expenses if they would include the defense department.
Sadly, even though we are winding down two wars and should have plenty of places where defense has been cut, that’s not going to happen. There will be NO PEACE DIVIDEND

The GOP proposal PROTECTS defense spending by undoing a scheduled $55 billion cut in the Pentagon budget, replacing the reduction with cuts elsewhere. Ryan has previously called the scheduled Pentagon cuts — part of the agreement reached in last summer’s Budget Control Act — “devastating to America’s defense capabilities.”

On Thursday, Ryan said senior military officials defending lower Pentagon spending proposals have not been honest. (Ryan practically calls our generals “Liars”)

“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice,” he said, accusing them of following an administration line. “I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the (administration’s) Pentagon budget, which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget. When you confront military experts — retired or active — they concede these things to us.”

Republicans would compensate for higher defense spending in part by requiring greater federal worker pension contributions and more means-testing of entitlement benefits.

Mar 29, 2012 5:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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