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Ryan frames voter 'choice' on GOP budget

From msnbc.com’s Carrie Dann: With the spotlight blazing onto the 73-page Republican 2012 budget resolution unveiled Tuesday, the plan's author is framing the sweeping changes to federal spending as one side of a "choice" for the American people in the next election  

AP

House Budget Committee member Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., looks on at right as committee committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. touts his 2012 federal budget during a news conference on Capitol Hill today.

“We have a moral obligation to our country, to our constituents, to at least give them a choice,” said House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan in remarks Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute. “So if we don’t get agreements in the intervening time because [of] politics, at least in 2012 they’ll have a real choice.”

The GOP budget plan – which would cut about $5 million from the federal deficit and overhaul entitlement programs Medicare and Medicaid – offers a daring solution to extract the nation from under a mountain of debt but risks facing a backlash from voters who may see it as a threat to federal health care services essential to older and poorer Americans. Compared with Obama's budget, the GOP plan would cut $6.2 trillion over 10 years.

The plan's transformative changes to health care spending and (yet-to-be-proposed) changes to Social Security are not countered by any revenue-increasing mechanisms that might be favored by Democrats, making the full plan all but politically unviable in the short term.

Ryan argues that, without a preemptive overhaul to prevent a debt crisis that would lead to “European-style austerity,” the same reforms would have to be jarringly implemented in the future rather than responsibly introduced now.

"Members of Congress who understand this believe that the smart best thing to do, the compassionate and humane thing, is to fix this now on our terms in a sensible way than punting and seeing more pain later,” he said.

Democrats came out swinging in response to the Republican plan, painting the GOP-backed proposals as devastating to the elderly.

Ryan’s Democratic counterpart on the House Budget Committee, Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, accused Republicans of “shift[ing] the entire risk of rising healthcare costs to seniors” with the proposal.

"House Republicans should be honest with the American people and repeal giveaways to the oil companies and tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy before forcing seniors to clip coupons if they need to see a doctor," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel in a statement. "Seniors who are paying a lifetime into Medicare deserve to count on the system they have."

Despite Israel’s reference to current Medicare beneficiaries, the summary of Ryan’s plan presented on the House Budget Committee website said his proposals would apply only to new Medicare beneficiaries starting in 2022, in other words, only to people who are now under age 54. “There would be no disruptions in the current Medicare fee-for-service program for those currently enrolled or becoming eligible in the next ten years,” the plan summary said.

Ryan dismissed Israel’s blistering characterization as knee-jerk politics.

”Here's the deal. Is this a political weapon? Of course it is.  but you have to say things like that - which are distortions and demagogueries, no two ways about it - in order to score any kind of political points.

“Shame on him for doing it,” he said.

While Ryan’s fellow Republicans have been supportive of the Wisconsin lawmaker’s willingness to lead the GOP charge on difficult spending choices, those who would like to bear the party’s standard in the 2012 election have not – so far – specifically embraced the details of the plan.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty praised Ryan's "leadership" and noted that the "budget is going to be debated for several months to come."

"With over $14 trillion debt already, we should not allow Washington’s big spenders to put us further in the hole. We must get our fiscal house in order with real spending cuts and with real structural reforms that stop the spending spree before it bankrupts our country," he said in a statement." 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he is"on the same page" as Ryan and said that the GOP chief is "setting the right tone" for controlling spending. "I applaud Rep. Paul Ryan for recognizing the looming financial crisis that faces our nation and for the creative and bold thinking that he brings to the debate," he said.