* 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
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, March 29 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
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
They hope it will help win voters who are profoundly worried
about growing U.S. debt and Obama's stewardship of a still
"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
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
"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
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.