Democrats unload on 'reckless' budget

House Democratic leaders wasted little time Tuesday hammering Rep. Paul Ryan's 2015 budget proposal, framing it as a "reckless" and "unrealistic" document designed only to score political points with the Republican base. [READ RYAN'S BUDGET PROPOSAL.]

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The plan from Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, aims to eliminate deficit spending over 10 years with a combination of tax reforms and more than $5 trillion in cuts to domestic and entitlement spending, including reductions in Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

GOP leaders hailed the proposal as a responsible path toward balancing budgets over the long-term and bolstering jobs now. But Democrats, who have a starkly different notion of where the government should direct its resources, warned that Ryan's plan would cripple an economy already struggling in the wake of the Great Recession.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized the proposal as a "vision for a less prosperous America;" Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member of the Budget panel, condemned it as a "reckless" plan that "casts a dark shadow over the American Dream;" and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the plan promotes "disinvestment" in the very areas — like education and infrastructure — where the country most needs to be spending.

"The nation's fiscal challenges deserve … an honest and serious budget," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip, told reporters in the Capitol. "This is not going to be one."

The Democrats criticisms are hardly new. Ryan has introduced similar proposals in the last three years, including a 2010 package that the Democrats attacked, to no avail, during the election cycle when they lost control of the House.

Ryan's plan calls for an almost $500 billion increase in defense spending above Budget Control Act levels over the next decade, while overall spending would be reduced by $5.1 trillion. As in past Ryan budgets, the plan gains much of its savings by partially privatizing Medicare and block granting Medicaid, both of which would reduce benefits under those programs.

The 100-page outline is largely silent, however, about precisely which domestic programs would be cut to bring the budget into balance. It also relies heavily on assumptions that the cuts will spur hiring and economic development in such a way that revenues will increase without tax hikes, a notion fiercely disputed by Democrats and left-leaning economists.

Republican leaders said Ryan's plan would boost the economy by reining in the growth of government spending.

"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 Tuesday in a statement. "This budget helps create jobs, grows our economy and puts more money back in people’s pockets."

Still, it's unclear if Republicans have the votes to pass the measure through the lower chamber, as a number of conservative Republicans are already grumbling that the 2015 spending levels adhere to the $1.014 trillion cap included in December's deal between Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a proposal opposed by more than 60 conservatives as unaffordable.

Ryan's budget has no chance of being adopted, given Democratic control of the Senate. But, like President Obama's 2015 budget, it does offer a fairly comprehensive notion of the Republicans' policy wish list, and will provide plenty of campaign-trail fodder for supporters and opponents alike.

Ryan's Budget Committee is scheduled to mark up the package on Wednesday.