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House Republicans, Senate Democrats Clash On US Budget

Congresman Paul Ryan holds copy of 2014 Budget Resolution March 12, 2013.
Congresman Paul Ryan holds copy of 2014 Budget Resolution March 12, 2013.
Cindy Saine
The U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman, Republican Paul Ryan, has introduced his 2014 budget proposal.  It would cut $4.6 trillion in government spending and balance the U.S. budget in ten years.  Democrats are criticizing the plan, saying it would hurt middle class Americans.  

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan appeared confident as he held up his “Path to Prosperity” budget plan Tuesday, which would erase the deficit in ten years - without raising taxes.

“Balancing the budget is a means to an end, it is a means to a healthier economy, a pro-growth society, a pro-growth economy that delivers opportunity,” Ryan said.

The Ryan budget is expected to be approved by the full House of Representatives next week, but it is non-binding and does not have the force of law. It lays out Republicans’ priorities on reducing the size of the federal government and would repeal most of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

Democrats, including the White House, pounced on the budget plan, calling it uncompromising, and saying they strongly disagree with the priorities it sets.  Senate Majority leader Harry Reid:

“The Ryan Republican budget will call for more tax breaks for the wealthy, an end to Medicare [government health care insurance program for the elderly] as we know it, and draconian cuts to education and other programs that help America’s economy grow and prosper,” Reid said.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray discussed her Senate Democratic plan with President Obama, who met with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill Tuesday.  She had a short summary of the Ryan plan

“The same old song, doubled down from what they have run on for the past two years,” she sauid.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Ryan's budget does not include the balance between tax increases and spending cuts that the administration is insisting on, and would instead hurt the middle class.

Republicans have criticized Senate Democrats and the president for being unwilling to tackle the difficult issue of cutting the high costs of social programs for the poor and the elderly such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Ryan challenged President Obama.

“And so this is an invitation.  Show us how to balance the budget.  If you don’t like the way we are proposing to balance our budget, how do you propose to balance the budget?,” Ryan said.

Analysts say the Ryan plan has no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and that both chambers will likely pass their own versions, which would then somehow have to be reconciled for the budget to become law.   Congressional scholar Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution said the best hope for a solution lies with Senate Republicans.

“The only way we will get moved toward any agreement is if a group of Senate Republicans decide to engage in serious negotiation with the Democrats and the president,” Mann said.

Mann said that if the Senate passes a compromise budget, then the House might also be able to introduce and pass one as well, with the support of a few Republicans and a large number of Democrats,  but without the help of fiscally conservative Tea Party Republicans.

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