Embracing Ryan budget, GOP derides 'Biden commission'

House Republicans on Thursday claimed President Obama’s “partisan” deficit-reduction speech has galvanized support for their 2012 budget resolution. 

Republicans said their whip count looked strong ahead of Friday’s vote on a resolution imposing $5.8 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, which Obama criticized for changing the country’s social compact while painting an overly pessimistic vision of the nation’s future. 

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“I think the president helped us,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the resolution’s author, who bore the brunt of the president’s criticism. 

“If anything it galvanized enthusiasm,” freshman Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said of Obama’s speech.

The confident tone from Republicans belies the uncertain future of negotiations on an agreement to get the nation’s deficit under control. 

While Ryan’s proposal will be approved Friday in the House, it’s presumed dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Obama’s proposal on Wednesday to set up a new round of formal talks on the deficit also looked to be on life support just months before Treasury says the country’s debt ceiling must be raised to prevent a default.

Republicans ripped Obama’s suggestion that House and Senate leaders appoint 16 colleagues to negotiate a deficit reduction plan with Vice President Joe Biden by the end of June. They said this would create a meaningless “commission” and suggested Obama has poisoned the well for a bipartisan deal.

“We heard a pitch again yesterday about the need for another commission, even though the president utterly ignored the last one,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday, making a reference to recommendations last year from the president’s debt commission. The chairmen of the commission visited Obama on Thursday, but the White House has not endorsed their proposal.

Boehner said none of the lawmakers at a Wednesday meeting with Obama reacted well to the idea of setting up another group to talk about how to reduce the deficit, and was coy as to whether the GOP would participate. 

“I don’t know how they’re going to proceed,” Boehner said. “I don’t think anyone around the table yesterday reacted very well to setting up a 16-member commission to have this conversation.”

Ryan said he has “no idea” if he would join the “Biden commission.”


He argued Obama should have followed normal procedures and produced a budget plan that tackled the deficit in February, instead of delegating the problem once again.

 “The president disavowed his last commission ... what is he going to do with this one?” he asked.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters said that he doesn't think the size of the Biden group or its creation are subjects of negotiation.

In a speech at an event sponsored by the conservative nonprofit e21, Ryan lashed out at Obama for attacking his plan. 

He said the president had descended into a “partisan mosh pit” with his deficit-reduction speech by accusing Republicans of trying to hurt seniors, the disabled and college students, seriously damaging the chances for reaching a bipartisan deal. 

Democrats continued to attack Ryan’s budget, calling it the Republican party’s “suicide note,” because it would turn Medicare into a type of voucher system for those ages 55 and younger.

 “The vote you’ll cast tomorrow presents a clear choice between millionaires and the middle class. Whose side are you on?” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday in a statement directed at House Republicans.

The White House insisted it was still possible to reach a deal despite the fiery rhetoric on both sides.

“Just because there's a lot of heat in these discussions and these debates, a lot of firmly held convictions, doesn't mean that we cannot come together and find common ground. The president believes that,” Carney said.

Ryan said he still thinks a more limited deal can be made in exchange for House Republicans agreeing to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. 

Serious differences must be bridged to reach a more limited deal. For example, Ryan said he favors hard spending caps rather than the debt “trigger” Obama proposed in Wednesday’s speech. Negotiations over this issue are likely to be central in the coming weeks.

The Obama trigger would kick in if the national debt is not in decline relative to GDP by 2014. By that measure, Obama’s 2012 budget would not violate the trigger.

Ryan said he wants the three levels of caps proposed in the House GOP’s 2012 budget: a discretionary spending cap, a total spending cap as a percentage of GDP, and a debt trigger that, unlike Obama’s, includes all aspects of government spending.

He characterized Obama’s trigger, which excludes 65 percent of spending, as nothing more than a guaranteed tax increase.

Sam Youngman contributed to this report.