WASHINGTON -- House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., introduced a spending proposal Tuesday that would cut more than $5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, primarily by effectively repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care law and greatly reducing spending on social programs.
The 99-page plan is Mr. Ryan's last manifesto on government austerity as head of the Budget Committee. He has emerged as the GOP's leading light on fiscal policy in recent years, but he is term-limited as head of the budget panel and vying to become chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee next year, while considering a 2016 presidential bid.
Congress approved a bipartisan two-year budget agreement late last year, but Mr. Ryan said he drafted a separate proposal because the current plan "is nowhere near what we need" to cut spending. "I believe we need to be an alternative party. I believe we need to be a proposition party, not just an opposition party," Mr. Ryan said.
The budget plan reaffirms the conservative goal of creating a top individual tax rate of 25 percent and consolidating the current seven individual income-tax brackets into two. But it makes little mention of an ambitious tax overhaul advocated by outgoing Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., who on Monday announced that he will retire at the end of this term. Mr. Ryan said tax overhaul "is not a settled issue" among House Republicans, and that the Camp proposal was merely a "discussion draft" to start conversation on the subject.
The House Budget Committee is expected to debate and pass the spending plan today, and GOP leaders have said they will hold a floor vote on Mr. Ryan's proposal. He and senior GOP leadership aides predicted Tuesday that the proposal will eventually pass the House with sufficient GOP support because it is similar to one passed last year. Just 10 Republicans voted against Mr. Ryan's 2013 budget, the same number who opposed his 2012 plan.
Democrats dismissed Mr. Ryan's plan as unrealistic and signaled that they would once again use it to draw contrasts for voters before November's midterm elections.
"This is the definition of class warfare," said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Budget Committee's ranking Democrat. He blasted Mr. Ryan for proposing hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to education, the food stamp program and the Medicare prescription drug program. "Mitt Romney said he wasn't interested in helping the 47 percent. This budget sets out to prove that," he told reporters, referring to comments made by Mr. Ryan's 2012 presidential running mate about the nation's economic divide.
Overall, Mr. Ryan would cut about $5.1 trillion from projected spending over the next decade, with nearly $3 trillion coming from repealing the health care law and revamping Medicaid. Still, his proposals fall short of balancing the budget, forcing him to resort to a vague promise of new revenue from "economic growth" to meet his goal of wiping out deficits by 2024.
He proposed no defense spending increase, instead adhering to discretionary spending limits he negotiated in December with Patty Murray, D-Wash., Senate Budget Committee chairman.
The plan recycles several prior proposals that remain popular among GOP lawmakers, including repealing benefits of the Affordable Care Act. But Mr. Ryan would keep the taxes and Medicare cuts mandated by the law. He calls for privatizing Medicare by changing it from an entitlement program into a voucher-style program. He also proposes cuts to other domestic agencies, and federal workforce reductions and retirement-benefit cuts for federal workers. And he once again did not provide a plan to overhaul Social Security.