Ryan says new budget only slightly different from last proposal

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that his new budget proposal, due out next Tuesday, will only be modestly different from last year’s, rebutting Democratic claims that he is going in a new, vastly more conservative direction with his fiscal plans.

“You won’t see big surprises in our budget,” he told reporters.

Last year’s budget cut $5 trillion in spending, but only balanced by the year 2040. 

This year, Ryan committed to the most conservative members of his conference that he would produce a budget that balances by 2023.

“For a number of reasons, and with some honest policy changes, we can get to balance,” he said. “It doesn’t take enormous changes in our budget to get there.”

He argued that he is not making the budget significantly more conservative and remains committed to finding a negotiated budget bargain with President Obama and Senate Democrats.

“I think this whole thing will come to a crescendo this summer, we are going to have to talk to each other on how to delay a debt crisis,” he said. "This summer the debt ceiling will have to be raised again, returning the Capitol to another budget showdown.

“It is my hope that we can start talking to each other and start solving these problems,” Ryan said. 

Before getting to those battles, Ryan has to overcome differences on details in the budget within his own conference by the Tuesday rollout.

Centrists in the conference have balked at a suggestion by Ryan that the budget change Medicare for those older than 55. 

Ryan’s last budget made a private form of Medicare — in which seniors can buy private insurance using set government support payments -- a future option. It only applied to those 54 and younger, however.

Ryan would not say whether he will leave the Medicare proposal unchanged. He laughed off divisions among the GOP members.

“We are unified,” Ryan said. “We have members who have various priorities and preferences coming from different districts. But on the point of getting an agreement that makes the necessary cuts and gets us on a path to balance … we are unified.”

Ryan said that the $600 billion in new revenue generated by the "fiscal-cliff" deal, in which taxes went up for families making more than $450,000 per year, will help him get to balance.

“Revenue went up significantly two months ago, the baseline has changed. We are not going to refight that fight,” Ryan said. 

The budget will also assume Medicare savings from Obama’s healthcare reform, something Ryan’s last budget did. 

“Because of ObamaCare you have, for a moment in time, lower Medicare spending,” he said. 

Because of these assumptions, the conservative Republican Study Committee is working on its own proposals that reject the fiscal-cliff deal and “ObamaCare,” members said.

Ryan said that Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) may have to resort to “gimmicks” next week when she rolls out her own budget proposal. He warned reporters not to be taken in by a “war gimmick” that counts unspent money on Afghanistan as a spending cut, a “Sandy gimmick” that assumes hurricane emergency spending continues at the current level and any attempt to call count spending cuts in the last Congress as new savings.

He dismissed any claims by Murray that he will have to massively increase the amount of cuts he has to make in order to balance the budget. 

Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in a Wednesday statement said Ryan's plan is more radical than before and that the public has rejected his approach in the last election. Ryan ran as Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate.

"I look forward to seeing the House Republican budget next week. Unfortunately, we expect a budget similar to last year’s but on steroids, made worse by picking an arbitrary political date to come into balance at the expense of job creation and economic growth. The GOP is dead set on balancing the budget on the backs of working families, seniors, and kids’ education – everything is on the chopping block except tax breaks for special interests and the very wealthy," he said.

--This report was updated at 1:51 p.m.