Paul Ryan debuted his budget plan at a press conference featuring an array of
lawmakers, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and about a dozen House Republicans, in a show of unity behind a plan that would radically alter Medicare and Medicaid while cutting trillions of dollars in spending over the next decade.
“For too long Washington has not been honest with the American people,” Ryan said. “Washington has been making empty promises to Americans from a government that is going broke.”
Ryan’s far-reaching proposal, which he dubbed the “Path to Prosperity,” would privatize Medicare while shifting the burden of higher health care costs onto seniors over time. It would also replace Medicaid funding with a block grant system that experts warn would lead to major reductions in benefits in many states. In addition, it would overhaul the tax code to create lower taxes on high income earners and corporations while capping discretionary spending at 2008 levels.
A previous plan by Ryan to privatize Medicare and drastically cut spending, the “Road Map For America,” drew few supporters among House Republicans wary of attaching their names to specific cuts going into the 2010 election, much to Ryan’s chagrin. Reporters pressed Ryan on what he would say to Republicans afraid to sign onto his proposal’s far-reaching changes to popular entitlements.
“Well none of them say that,” he deadpanned. “Just kidding.”
While conceding that the path forward would be politically treacherous, Ryan warned that “we cannot keep going down the path of fearing what the other political party would do to us if we tried to solve the problem.”
He said that he hoped the Obama administration would at least consider individual parts of his proposal as part of an “adult conversation,” perhaps incorporating some aspect of it into a compromise over raising the debt ceiling later this year.
“We think this gives you a great menu of options and policies to pick through as a package with the debt limit,” he said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.