Ryan, Sessions say Obama budget only cuts deficit by $119B

“We are not seeing responsible leadership, that’s just it,” Sessions said. 

Ryan’s office said Obama is ignoring $300 billion in new spending, is claiming $675 billion on phony war savings, is ignoring the cost of preventing cuts to doctor payments in Medicare, is ignoring the cost of extending refundable tax credits and the cost of turning off $1.1 trillion in automatic spending cuts. 

His office said when all the new revenue in the budget is added up, it totals $1.1 trillion. This includes $71 billion from increasing the estate tax. 

“On the estate tax it is disappointing that they want to reopen agreements that have already been achieved,” Ryan said. 

Acting White House budget director Jeff Zients on Wednesday said all sides can use different baselines to make arguments, but the two key facts of the budget are that by 2023 the deficit is cut from 7 percent of the economy to 1.7 percent and that the national debt is on a downward path compared to the gross domestic product. He justified counting war savings to offset new spending because Obama's policy to pull out of Afghanistan is causing the lower spending in the future there. 

Ryan offered limited praise for Obama’s decision to include $230 billion in entitlement cuts and revenue increases due to a new measure of inflation, but he said this is only a “symbolic step.”

“I don’t see it so much as fundamental entitlement reform as clarification of a statistic,” he said. 

Ryan was more optimistic that the budget proposes means-testing Medicare hospital and drug benefits and said this provides the most solid overlap with his own spending plan. 

The 2014 Ryan plan, which passed the House last month, has $4.6 trillion in new spending cuts and partially privatizes Medicare in order to balance the budget by 2023. 

“At least he put a plan on the table that show willingness to look at entitlements,” Ryan said. 

Ryan said the budget shows that Washington should now abandon hope for a “deficit grand bargain” and focus on piecemeal reforms.

“I think we should rationalize our expectations to getting a down payment on that problem,” he said. 

“Fixing the problem requires fundamental entitlement reform and the president and Senate Democrats have shown absolutely no indication of being willing to do so,” Ryan said. 

He said conferencing his budget with the Senate-passed budget is the best path forward.

Ryan’s call for a piecemeal approach contrasts with statements on Wednesday by White House top economic adviser Gene Sperling who told reporters the budget is not an “a la carte menu” and Obama would only back entitlement cuts in the context of a grand bargain that raises $600 billion in new revenue.

Ryan said the comment was disappointing.

“A take it or leave it approach: We deserve better. It is why we haven’t gotten anything done to date,” he said.