The election-year GOP manifesto paints clear campaign differences with Obama, whose February budget submission offered tax increases on the wealthy but mostly left alone key benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. Obama and his Democratic allies instead promise to protect programs aimed at the elderly and the poor.
Ryan said the GOP plan steps in aggressively to prevent a European-style debt crisis that would swamp the economy and force draconian spending cuts and tax increases.
"Let's not wait until we have a crisis. Let's not wait until interest rates go up and we're in sort of a European meltdown mode," Ryan said. "Let's do it right and do it now, because then we can keep the promises that government has made to people who need it the most."
But Democrats said the Ryan plan makes spending cuts that are simply too extensive, knocking millions of people off of food stamps and forcing states to drop Medicaid nursing home coverage for many elderly people. At the same time, Democrats said the GOP budget promises a radical overhaul of the tax code that would deliver big tax cuts to upper-income people while taking away tax deductions and credits important to the middle class and the poor, like the child tax credit, and deductions for health insurance, mortgage interest and contributions to charity.
Democrats say the GOP Medicare proposal, similar to a plan that started a political firestorm last year, would cut costs steeply and provide the elderly with a steadily shrinking menu of options and higher out-of-pocket costs.
"It is not bold, not bold to provide tax breaks to millionaires while ending the Medicare guarantee for seniors and sticking them with the bill for rising health care costs," said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Budget Committee Democrat. "It is certainly not brave to cut support for seniors in nursing homes, individuals with disabilities and poor kids. And it is not fair to raise taxes on middle-income Americans, financed by another round of tax breaks for the very wealthy."
Compared with Obama's budget, the GOP measure includes deficit cuts totaling $3.3 trillion — spending cuts of $5.3 trillion tempered by $2 trillion in lower taxes — over the coming decade. The deficit in 2015, for example, would drop to about $300 billion from $1.2 trillion for the current budget year. But the GOP measure — despite assumptions of major cuts to transportation, education and food aid — doesn't achieve balance for almost three decades, leading conservatives to offer an even tougher plan that would come to balance in five years.
The GOP measure is likely to pass almost exclusively with GOP votes, though some tea party lawmakers will oppose it for not going far enough.
Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.
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