By Erik Wasson - 03/29/12 09:31 PM EDT
House GOP leaders on Thursday brandished their newly passed 2013 budget as the foundation of the Republican fall election campaign.
They know the budget is going nowhere until the November elections, and said it will take an electoral mandate to enact the huge spending cuts and Medicare changes it calls for that, GOP leaders say, are needed to rescue the U.S. from fiscal calamity.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) boiled down the GOP election message from here on out: President Obama and Democrats have for over four years ignored a pending debt crisis.
“The president gave us four budgets that ignore our country's fiscal and economic problems, the Senate isn’t even bothering to try: that wrong,” he told reporters. “What we have done for a second year in a row is told the American public explicitly how we plan to save this country from a future of doubt and decline.”
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Obama is like former President Jimmy Carter, presiding over national atrophy and that as in 1980, the public hungers for huge change.
Ryan on Thursday argued that bond market vigilantes appear to be waiting to see the outcome of the 2012 election and whether the political “impasse” can be ended to make way for a fiscal plan.
So far, there has been no slack in demand for U.S. treasuries bonds, something that could be expected if America was on the verge of the Greece-style debt crisis.
“My guess is that they are waiting through the election,” Ryan said. He said the U.S. is as little as two years away from a debt crisis.
Ryan said that the budget now presents voters with a choice in November. "Now they have two very crystal clear paths from which to choose," he said.
Presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has endorsed the Ryan budget.
He said that far from being a hindrance to the GOP nominee, the budget will boost his campaign because it will honestly show what the GOP will do if given the full reins of power.
"People deserve to be spoken to like adults," he said.
Rank and file members also voiced confidence that voting to cut Medicare benefits and slash the budget for popular programs in an election year was a smart idea.
“I am excited about the message that we have sent,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) “This is political courage. American people will respond in the election.”
Democrats reject the charge they are ignoring America’s fiscal problems
“We have made it clear that the question is not whether or not we should implement a deficit reduction plan, the issues is how you do it,” Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said.
“Because they choose to exempt folks at the very high end of the income scale from responsibility for reducing the deficit…they whack everyone else and everything else,” he said. He noted Romney’s endorsement of the plan.
“This is going to be an enormous campaign issue,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said.
He said the Ryan plan has the potential to be a tax increase for the middle class by eliminating tax deductions, while benefitting the wealthy.
Van Hollen argued that it is unlikely the 2012 election will clarify the deficit issue by providing clear direction from voters.
He predicted that President Obama will be reelected and that after the election Obama will use the fact that the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy are expiring as leverage to enact a fair tax reform.
Such a tax reform could end up with a top rate rising from 35 percent to 36 percent, he argued, rather than the 25 percent top rate that Ryan has been seeking.
Yarmuth said the GOP is deluded by anti-tax and anti-government ideology that would hobble the economy if enacted.
“I won’t say where their heads are, but I don’t think they are in the real economic world,” he said.