Ryan defends risky call to release budget

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday defended his decision to propose an election-year budget against the wishes of some in his party.

The House Budget Committee chairman told reporters that the GOP majority needed to offer an alternative to President Obama's vision for the future.

“We believe it is not enough for us to just be an opposition party. We need to be a proposition party,” Ryan said on a conference call held hours after the release of his latest fiscal blueprint.

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Ryan proposed $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over a decade in his fourth and probably final formal budget proposal. He offered another long-term plan this year despite having struck a bipartisan agreement with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) that set spending levels for fiscal 2015.

With that deal in place and the midterm elections nearing, some House Republicans had privately questioned the decision to put forward a politically risky proposal, and Ryan could lose more votes on the floor this year than the 10 Republicans who defected in 2013.

Ryan, likely in his last year as chairman of the House Budget Committee, said that while he was “proud” of the agreement he struck with Murray, it was “nowhere near what we need.”

“As I see it, this is about leadership. This is about governing,” he said. “This is about showing the country there’s a better way.”

Ryan noted that the budget is “very similar” to the proposals he has written each of the last three years. But he highlighted the increases he calls for in defense spending, which amount to $273 billion more than what President Obama proposed in his budget and nearly a half trillion dollars more than the current budget path would cause over a decade.

“The president does not provide the resources necessary to meet our national security strategy. His cuts would do grave harm to our military,” Ryan said.

“We think this is irresponsible. We think it’s too bad that President Obama is taking another step back, and so we will show a clear contrast on where we think we ought to go on protecting national defense.”

While Ryan repeated his proposals to overall Medicare and Medicaid, he shied away from offering or endorsing specific plans to rewrite the tax code, replace ObamaCare or reform anti-poverty programs. The budget did not adopt a major tax-reform plan from Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.); Ryan said Camp asked him not to include it because it was only a draft that did not represent the position of the full Republican Conference.

And Ryan said he would introduce anti-poverty proposals on his own later this year instead of including them in the party’s budget.

The lack of specificity underscores the GOP’s reluctance to adopt major new proposals in the election year, as well as the party’s ongoing struggle to unify around a way forward on tax reform or healthcare, where a replacement for the new law is still in the works.

While the budget calls for a full repeal of ObamaCare, it once again retains money the law removes from the Medicare Advantage program, despite the fact that Republicans attack Democrats over the policy. Ryan defended the move, saying the budget proposes a reserve fund that could replenish the Medicare Advantage program in the future.

Ryan’s Budget Committee will consider the proposal on Wednesday, and the full House could vote on it next week.

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