House Democratic leaders on Friday amplified their charges against the Republicans' latest budget bill, saying steep education cuts included in Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) 2015 proposal would disadvantage low-income Americans and cripple the country's ability to compete in a global economy.
"It's the budget that ransacks the future of America's children," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "Education is the best investment that a person, a parent, a country can make in its future. ... This is key to employment, to growth, to innovation and for the success of our economy.
"I view the Ryan budget as an ideological manifesto," she added.
Other Democrats piled on.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Education and Labor Committee, said the GOP budget would eliminate more than 170,000 spots for early education benefits — "and it gets worse every year after that," he added.
"These are the exact children that we know, if they have an opportunity in early childhood education, they will do much better in school, they're more likely to graduate, they're more likely to get a job, they're less likely to go to jail and they're more likely to earn a higher income than children who don't get that opportunity," Miller said.
"Clearly they [Republicans] don't care about these children."
The comments are the latest indication that the Democrats will press hard to make Ryan's budget a central theme of the year's campaign season. For months, the Democrats have highlighted the distinction between the two parties' economic agendas, and the Ryan budget, they say, only clarifies those distinctions.
"The contrast could not be greater," Pelosi said. "I say that with great sorrow."
Van Hollen said the Democrats will offer their alternative to the Ryan budget on Monday. He declined to comment on the degree to which it will differ from the budget offered by President Obama earlier in the year.
Unveiled Tuesday, Ryan's plan aims to eliminate deficit spending over the next decade with a series of tax reforms and $5.1 trillion in cuts to federal programs, including education initiatives and entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid.
GOP leaders have hailed Ryan's plan as a responsible outline for reining in government spending and boosting job creation.
"Working middle-class families live within their means, and they should expect nothing less from their government," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said this week. "This budget helps create jobs, grows our economy and puts more money back in people’s pockets."
But critics are quick to note that the bulk of the savings come from cuts affecting the most vulnerable Americans.
The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning analyst group, reported this week that 69 percent of the cuts in the Ryan plan target programs designed to help low-income people.
It remains unclear how much trouble GOP leaders will have in passing the Ryan plan. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said this week that he'll have the votes, even if all Democrats oppose the measure, as expected.
But a number of conservatives are grumbling that the Ryan plan adheres to the 2015 spending cap instituted by December's budget deal — a plan opposed by 62 Republicans as too expensive.
The Budget Committee passed the Ryan plan on Wednesday, and a floor vote is expected next week.