WASHINGTON — The House approved along party lines a budget plan that would reach balance in 10 years by cutting taxes, repealing President Obama's health care law and cutting social programs in favor of the national defense.
"What this budget comes down to is a matter of trust," said House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, who authored the budget. Republicans put their trust in individual Americans while Democrats put more trust in government, he said. "Who knows better: the people or Washington? We have made our choice with this budget."
The conservative fiscal blueprint is the final resolution authored by Ryan, who is term-limited as Budget chairman. Like all of his previous efforts, it was approved on a party line vote, 219-205. Twelve Republicans voted against it, as did all House Democrats. The Democratic-controlled Senate has no plans to pass a budget plan.
Ryan's budgets have never stood a fighting chance at becoming law. However, they have served as the defining fiscal vision of how the Republican Party would govern.
Few aspects of this budget has received more attention than Ryan's call to fundamentally alter the Medicare system.
The Wisconsin Republican, who was Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential campaign, advocates for overhauling the guaranteed benefit into a "premium support" system that would provide seniors money to purchase health care in the private market. Ryan contends that the proposal will "save" Medicare for future retirees because the entitlement program faces long-term financial instability.
Democrats have used the proposal to campaign against GOP candidates in recent elections, accusing them of undermining a promise to America's seniors. They intend to repeat that theme in 2014. "It is a path to ruin, it is not a path to prosperity," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The conservative budget achieves balance on what the government spends to what it takes in by 2024 with steep cuts, $5.1 trillion, to social programs including food stamps, college loan programs and health care for the poor. The Pentagon is largely protected from budget cuts. It also calls for a 25% corporate tax rate and reducing the current tax bracket structure to just two: a 25% and 10% bracket.
"This House Republican budget is the worst that I've seen in the past three years for the United States of America," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, in reference to previous budgets authored by Ryan. "At every juncture in this House Republican budget, they choose to protect powerful special interests and the very wealthy at the expense of the poor and everyone else."
Ryan has indicated he will seek the gavel of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has vast jurisdiction over the health care system and the federal tax code, in the next Congress. He is also viewed as a prospective 2016 candidate. He heads to Iowa on Saturday to headline the state GOP's Lincoln Dinner in Cedar Rapids.