Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Reduced spending for entitlement programs such as Medicare and food stamps is needed to eliminate deficits within 10 years, said U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
“Our goal is to get cuts in reforms that put us on a path to balancing our budget within a decade,” Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program yesterday. “Spending is the problem, revenues aren’t the problem.”
House Republicans are shifting their attention from the debt-ceiling debate to a discussion about legislation aimed at balancing the federal budget. The House voted Jan. 23 to temporarily suspend the nation’s borrowing limit, removing the issue for now as a tool for seeking deeper spending cuts.
The legislation is slated to be taken up by the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said lawmakers will pass the bill unchanged and send it to President Barack Obama. White House spokesman Jay Carney last week said at a briefing that the administration still prefers a long-term extension of the nation’s debt ceiling, while adding that Obama “would not stand in the way” if Congress passes the proposal.
The House debt-ceiling plan, which passed 285-144 and would lift the government’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit until May 19, includes a provision designed to prompt lawmakers to address the federal budget. It says the House and the Senate each must adopt a budget resolution for the next fiscal year by April 15. If not, the pay for members of the chamber that doesn’t act will be withheld and placed in an escrow account until they adopt one -- or, at the latest, until the end of the 113th Congress.
Ryan said the budget negotiations shouldn’t include any proposals for increased revenue.
“Are we for more revenues? No, we’re not,” Ryan said yesterday. “The president got his additional revenues, so that’s behind us. If you keep raising revenues you’re not going to get decent tax reform.”
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters last week that if each chamber passes a budget, “now you’ve got competing visions” for federal spending. “Out of those competing visions we’re going to find some common ground, I’m hopeful, that puts us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years,” he said.
Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said in an interview last week that to achieve that goal, House Republicans will “try and balance the budget on the backs of seniors and kids” with cuts in Medicare benefits and aid to education.
“We will put a budget up that says: Here’s our plan for economic growth; here’s our plan for balancing the budget; here’s our plan for entitlement reform, which is necessary if you want to save Medicare from bankruptcy and get this debt under control,” Ryan said on NBC.
Republicans say they plan to use two other approaching deadlines -- the March 1 start of automatic spending cuts and the need to pass a bill by the end of March to fund the government -- to extract spending reductions from Obama and congressional Democrats.
“If we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles -- chief of staff of the White House or president of the United States -- I think we would’ve fixed this fiscal mess by now,” Ryan said. “That’s not the kind of presidency that we’re dealing with right now.”
Bowles, a chief of staff to former Democratic President Bill Clinton, and former Senator Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, were co-chairmen of Obama’s deficit commission that proposed a $4 trillion solution of tax increases and spending cuts.
A debt-limit suspension would clear the way for House Republicans to focus on the debate to replace about $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, half of which would come from defense.
“We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternatives,” Ryan said.
After dealing with the automatic cuts, the House plans to take up its budget resolution and then turn to a bill to fund the government through Sept. 30, according to Representative John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican. The government is being funded through a stopgap measure that expires March 27.
“We’re not interested in shutting the government down,” Ryan said. “We are more than happy to keep spending at those levels going into the future while we debate how to balance the budget, how to grow the economy, how to create economic opportunity.”
When asked about his White House aspirations for 2016, Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, said “it’s just premature” to talk about that now. “I’ll decide later about that,” he said.
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