Vulnerables offer praise for Ryan plan

Some House Republicans took their first steps toward embracing the GOP's 2012 budget plan as they weighed whether it can sell in their competitive districts.

After the broad strokes came out over the weekend, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday unveiled the details of Republicans' 2012 budget resolution. The House Budget Committee chairman’s plan would cut $5.8 trillion over 10 years and reform entitlements, which could ignite a spending debate that would make the 2010 midterm campaign seem carefree.

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Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who represents Palm Beach and Boca Raton, called it "an honest and straightforward step" toward "fiscal discipline."

We have to "treat the American people like adults instead of treating them like children, as the liberal progressives do, by making excuses for and ignoring the facts regarding the fiscal mess our nation faces," West, a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, said in a statement.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), who holds Democrat David Obey’s former seat, said he "applaud[ed]" Ryan's "bold" plan. He called for Congress to "have an honest conversation about how we once and for all address and eliminate our national debt."

Democrats need to win 25 seats in the next election cycle to retake the Speaker’s gavel, and more than half are in districts that have repeatedly gone Democratic in presidential years. There are 14 GOP-held districts that went for President Obama in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) when he ran for office in 2004.

The districts, some with high concentrations of seniors concerned about cuts to Medicare spending, are held by a mixture of freshman and veteran GOP lawmakers. Democrats have indicated they plan to discredit the proposal with older voters.

"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," Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement. He called Ryan's plan the latest in a long line of "privatization schemes."

Still, most Republicans said they're ready to engage in a debate over entitlement reform.

Several members said they hadn't yet read the entire the 73-page "Path to Prosperity," which describes the proposed 2012 fiscal budget. 

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said he's "still looking through it."



"It's a serious, sober document and I'm glad we're about to engage in a fact-based discussion on the federal budget," said Dent, a long-time Democratic target who remains well-liked by his constituents.



Asked if he'll support it, Dent hesitated. "I'm going to study it first," he said. "There are some things in there that I think are interesting."

Dent, who represents Allentown and Bethlehem, cited the block grants for Medicaid as one example. 

Dent said he would take a few days to deliberate.

"I'm going to let some people back home comment on it," he said. "I think everyone understands that Washington has a spending problem and [has to] be forced to go on a diet."

Meanwhile, Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), who represents the North Shore district formerly occupied by now-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), pushed back against Democratic criticism that the plan guts funding for Medicare. "The budget keeps America's promise to [our] seniors currently enrolled in programs like Medicare, while strengthening health and retirement programs for future retirees."

Fellow Illinois Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling said he hasn't had the chance to read the proposal in full, but said "everything I've seen so far looks pretty good." He dismissed Democratic critics who slammed the proposal Tuesday. 

"This isn't just throwing something up there," he said. "This is a plan that gets us out of this mess and it recognizes that we've got to do something."

Freshman Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) said he was "very happy" with the proposal. "This is what I came to Washington for. ... Let's get it on.



"I'm excited because we're finally going to address real cuts in spending," he said.



Barletta said he wasn't concerned about the political ramifications of the plan. "No, because the very first thing I'm going to tell 'em is, if you're a senior citizen or near a senior citizen this doesn't concern you, you can leave the room,," he said. "This will be talking about the next generation, who won't have Medicare if we don't deal with it."

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.), who could face a rematch with former Rep. Dan Maffei next year in her upstate congressional district, welcomed the budget as "a serious and in-depth proposal that addresses the fiscal crisis facing this nation," but didn't comment on the specifics.

"I look forward to reviewing the proposal in more detail and working to pass a fiscally sound 2012 budget," she said.

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), who holds former Rep. Joe Sestak's (D) seat, called it a "blueprint" for "prosperity" and said he believes it's a "good first step in the process."

Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers (R), who unseated Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy last November, said he's "looking forward to reading" the plan, which "appears to be a pro-growth budget, which will help businesses create jobs."

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), a recurring target of national Democrats given the makeup of his district, did not react to the proposal immediately Tuesday. A spokesman for Reichert told The Hill he's still studying the budget plan. The offices of Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday, and neither issued statements on the Ryan plan.

The offices of Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), who has held the district northwest of Philadelphia for five terms, and New Hampshire Rep. Charlie Bass (R), a first-term retread, did not respond to requests for comment about the budget plan.

—Erik Wasson contributed. 

Updated at 9:58 a.m.