Van Hollen: GOP budget is 'declaration of class warfare'

As the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) has had a front-row look at the various budget bills offered by the Republicans over the years.

The 2015 proposal, Van Hollen charged Tuesday, is "the worst … that we've ever seen."

"It's a direct attack on job-creation [and] it's a recipe for America's economic decline," Van Hollen told reporters in the Capitol. "Our economic competitors — those in China, those in Europe — will be popping their champagne bottles if we adopt this particular budget because it's a sure-fire way to undermine our global economic competitiveness.

"We're in totally unchartered waters here, historically speaking," he said.

Van Hollen cited provisions of the GOP's latest proposal, unveiled Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), that would slash spending for Pell Grants, Head Start, food stamps and Medicaid — programs that largely benefit low- and middle-income families — while also providing the wealthiest Americans a tax cut.

"This," Van Hollen said, "is a declaration of class warfare."

Van Hollen went after Ryan and the Republicans for claiming to repeal the Affordable Care Act while retaining certain savings and revenues under the law that help reduce deficits, including Medicare Advantage cuts over which Republicans have attacked the Democrats for years.

"So they reduce the deficit by getting rid of the things that help people in the Affordable Care Act, but they claim balance by keeping all the revenues and the Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act," he said. "It's a fraud to claim both."

Van Hollen also questioned why Ryan did not include some of the provisions included in the sweeping tax reform package offered last month by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). Camp's proposal, for instance, had proposed a tax rate of 35 percent on the nation's highest earners, versus 25 percent under the Ryan plan.

"It's as if Camp's efforts never happened," Van Hollen said.

Ryan's budget, which aims to eliminate deficit spending over a decade via tax reforms and $5.1 trillion in spending cuts, has no chance of passing Congress with Democrats controlling the Senate. There's even a question of whether it can move through the House, as conservative Republicans are grumbling that the proposal spends too much; moderate Republicans might balk that it spends too little; and Democrats will almost certainly be unanimously opposed.

Still, the proposal provides an extensive look at the Republicans' policy wish list, just as President Obama's budget lays out the Democrats' economic vision for the next decade. And the contrasts, Van Hollen says, will be an advantage to the Democrats at the polls in November.

"This is what elections are about: Discussing different priorities, different values, and budgets are the clearest road map to discovering what people's priorities are," Van Hollen said. "The reason people need to take these things seriously is that this does show what House Republicans would do if they could impose their will."

The Budget Committee is scheduled to mark up Ryan's budget on Wednesday, with a floor vote expected next week.