By Erik Wasson and Jason Millman - 04/08/11 12:32 PM EDT
The House Republican Study Committee (RSC) on Thursday released an alternative to the 2012 budget resolution from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would cut $9.1 trillion in spending over the next decade.
The RSC, a 176-member caucus, will offer its “Honest Solutions” plan as a floor amendment to the budget resolution next week. The House Budget Committee passed the GOP budget plan late Wednesday.
RSC leaders emphasized that their alternative was not a revolt against Ryan’s budget plan, which is backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the rest of the Republican leadership.
But a longtime GOP budget expert said it was extraordinary that such a large caucus would offer an alternative plan while in the majority. The source said the move reflects the intense pressure Boehner is facing from the right to cut government spending.
The biggest difference between the RSC plan and Ryan’s budget is the outlook for balancing the budget. Whereas Ryan's plan would balance the budget by 2040, the RSC plan would do so by 2020.
It would accomplish that by spending $3.3 trillion less over 10 years than Ryan's plan. The Ryan budget resolution would cut $5.8 trillion over the next decade.
The RSC plan would find additional cuts of $1 trillion from discretionary accounts such as agency budgets and another $700 billion from Medicaid.
RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) said the group hopes to get more than the 111 votes the alternative RSC budget received in 2009. He said getting 218 votes to secure passage is “probably not going to happen.”
Jordan said the RSC alternative should be viewed as a complement to the Ryan budget and not a challenge to leadership.
But RSC member Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who helped craft the budget alternative, said Ryan’s plan does not do enough to reform entitlements.
“It simply does not address rapidly enough reforms of the major drivers of our deficit, which are the entitlement programs,” said Mulvaney, a member of the Budget Committee.
The RSC plan shaves $4.95 trillion from deficits over 10 years, compared to a $1.65 trillion cutting of the deficits in the GOP budget. Like the Ryan plan, the RSC amendment does not include tax increases and extends the Bush-era tax rates.
House Democrats expressed shock at the size of the RSC cuts and blasted conservatives for not considering tax increases to help pay down the deficit.
“What bothers me about this … is the same thing as the Ryan budget. They don’t touch revenue. Why shouldn’t the richest 2 percent of the country contribute something to this?” Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said.
Conservatives, meanwhile, are frustrated that Ryan's budget resolution only includes a trigger to force the president and Congress to come up with reforms to Social Security in the future.
The RSC budget shores up the solvency of Social Security by raising the retirement age to 70 by 2045. That timeline is faster than the one suggested by the president’s fiscal commission, which proposed raising the retirement age to 69 by 2075.
Rep Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said the RSC did not call for private accounts in Social Security as part of the plan because the conversion is costly and would not have allowed the group to balance the budget in 10 years. He said that fact also played a role in Ryan’s not including Social Security reforms in his budget.
The RSC’s Medicare overhaul plan would accelerate Ryan’s proposed conversion of Medicare to a type of voucher system. While the House GOP budget eliminates the traditional program in 10 years for those currently 55 and under and replaces it with a “premium support” system, in which Medicare pays private insurance plans for an option selected by seniors, the RSC budget speeds up the process.
Under the RSC plan, individuals 59 and younger would enter the premium support system, while seniors of any age could voluntarily opt in to the voucher-type system in 2017.
The RSC budget also gradually raises the eligibility age to 67 by 2030, while the House GOP budget does the same three years later.
The RSC cuts Medicaid deeper by bringing program spending down to 2006 levels and limiting its growth just to inflation, while the House GOP budget also allows spending to grow with the population, Peuquet said.
Like the Ryan budget, the RSC plan repeals most of the Democrats' healthcare law while keeping its $500 billion reduction in Medicare reimbursements, which were included in the reform to help pay for expanding coverage to 32 million individuals. Republicans blasted the cuts during last year's campaign season but are now counting them toward Medicare savings.
The RSC budget would eliminate trade adjustment assistance, block-grant Supplemental Security Income and reduce traditional welfare and child nutrition spending. The plan eliminates direct payments to farmers to save $50 billion over 10 years and eliminates new enrollment in farm conservation programs.
In reaction to the plan, Ryan noted the RSC’s contribution to the budget resolution as passed through the Budget Committee.
“The [fiscal] 2012 budget resolution that was approved by the House Budget Committee yesterday builds upon several reforms offered by Republican Study Committee leaders — reforms aimed to strengthen the social safety net, put the budget on the path to balance and put the economy on the path to prosperity,” Ryan said in a statement.