While the budget for the current fiscal year remains in limbo, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, fired the first broadside of next year's budget debate on Sunday.
Ryan spoke publicly -- albeit without many details -- about his budget proposal which is to be released on Tuesday.
Asked about the scale of his budget's spending reductions, Ryan said they would exceed $4 trillion.
"We're looking at more than that right now," Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday." "We're fine-tuning our numbers with the Congressional Budget Office literally today, over the weekend. But we're going to be cutting a lot more than that."
"We intend to not only cut discretionary spending and put caps on spending, you have to address the drivers of our debt," Ryan said. "We need to engage with the American people on a fact-based budget, on stopping politicians from making empty promises to people and talk to the country about what is necessary to fix these problems."
Of the three major entitlement programs, Ryan's budget will seek to make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
"Medicare itself, literally, crowds out all other government spending at the end of the day," Ryan said. "We can't sustain that. We have got to get Medicare solvent."
Ryan said that his plan was not a voucher program, but a "premium support system" similar to one which he had worked on with Democrat Alice Rivlin.
"It works like the Medicare prescription drug benefit, similar to Medicare Advantage today, which means Medicare puts a list of plans out there that compete against each other for your business, and seniors pick the plan of their choosing, and then Medicare subsidizes that plan," Ryan said. "More for the poor, more for people who get sick, and we don't give as much money to people who are wealthy."
On Medicaid, Ryan's budget aims to reform the way the program is funded.
"We propose block grants to the states," Ryan said, but would not offer specific numbers. "We've had so much testimony from so many different governors saying give us the freedom to customize our Medicaid programs, to tailor for our unique populations in our states. We want to get governors freedom to do that."
The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee has already said that he will fight back against GOP plans to turn Medicaid into a block grant system.
“Although our Republican colleagues have not yet released their proposed budget resolution, all indications are that they would like to dismantle the Medicaid program, doing serious damage to the health care safety net in this country, particularly for senior citizens and persons with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for long-term care," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement last week.
Ryan’s budget plan — which as a general rule would not make substantive law but would lay out his party’s policy vision — doesn’t take on major Social Security changes.
Ryan acknowledged that his proposal would get a rough reception from the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House.
"Whether it's dead on arrival, I don't know. But where the president has failed to lead, we are going to lead, and we're going to put out ideas to fix this problem," Ryan said. "We are giving them a political weapon to go against us, but they will have to lie and demagogue to make that a political weapon."
The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee each fired out statements against Ryan and his proposals shortly after the interview on Fox aired.
The DNC said Ryan's assertion that President Obama's own budget does not address the debt is wrong, citing two Congressional Budget Studies and a Washington Post article as backup.
"Paul Ryan made clear that the Republican budget will protect Big Oil companies subsidies over seniors health care,” Jesse Ferguson of the DCCC said in a statement. “It’s already becoming clear who will be the priority in the House Republican budget – special interests, not middle class families.
The campaign committee has Ryan on its list of 25 representatives whom Democrats want to oust in 2012.
Republican senators took Ryan's attack on the president's lack of leadership on budget issues and ran with it on other Sunday shows.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on "This Week" contrasted the Republican effort to Obama's proposed 2012 budget.
"The Democrats have no plan except the president's plan which makes the debt worse than the current trajectory we're on. It raises taxes. It increases spending even more. It doubles the debt. We'll take interest from $200 billion last year in one year to $900 billion in 10 years."
And those Republicans indicated that they had chosen a time frame to come to an agreement on long-term spending.
"I intend to vote against raising the debt ceiling unless we can get some systemic reforms – the kind the president’s own fiscal commission recommended," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on CNN's "State of the Union." "That’s the price that’s going to have to be paid – systemic reforms – in order to get Republican support for raising the debt ceiling. Otherwise, I think you’re going to see Democrats having to do that all by themselves."
The debt ceiling, which is set by Congress, is currently about $14.3 trillion. The national debt is expected to hit that marker sometime this month.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida echoed the same idea on "Fox News Sunday."
"If all we do is go in there in three, four weeks or in a couple of months and extend the debt limit again and do nothing else, the world's going to look at us and say America and its political leadership is not serious about dealing with this incredible issue and the fact that their government continues to spend money it doesn't have," he said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), appearing opposite Cornyn, agreed that a long-term budget solution is needed, but he said that it would be irresponsible to flirt with not raising the debt ceiling.
"It frightens the heck out of me that anyone responsible would say, 'let’s go ahead and light the fuse that might cause the next economic meltdown,'" Warner said. "The notion that America would potentially even think about defaulting on its debt and what that could do in terms of driving up interest rates, it would just be totally irresponsible. You gotta believe that cooler, saner heads will prevail on the debt limit."