WASHINGTON — US Republicans will unveil plans Tuesday for a 2013 budget aimed at slashing federal spending, but Democrats warned Monday the proposal would cut too deeply into the Medicare health program for seniors.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is expected to release details of his new budget blueprint in a Tuesday speech and highlight the country’s fiscal woes, which he hopes will rally fellow conservatives around an election-year issue.
The budget, should it pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, would have no chance of passing the Democratic-held Senate. A similar 2012 Ryan plan went down to defeat in the Senate last year.
His latest budget poses a risk for Republicans in an election year as it again includes proposed reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, the popular but costly health insurance programs for the elderly and the poor.
It would transform Medicare from a traditional fee-for-service health care system for seniors into a voucher system giving them money to purchase insurance on the private market.
The Ryan plan would mark “the end of Medicare as we know it,” Representative Janice Schakowsky, a Democrat, told reporters.
“Some estimates are it would cost seniors out of pocket some $6,000″ per person per year more than current costs, she added.
Details of Ryan’s plan have yet to be released, but he hinted at his blueprint in a recent web video in which he decried the “immoral” lack of action by the administration to rein in spending.
“This coming debt crisis is the most predictable crisis we’ve ever had in this country,” Ryan said in the video.
“This is why we’re proposing and passing out of the House a budget to fix this problem so we can save our country.”
President Barack Obama unveiled his $3.8 trillion spending plan for 2013 last month, when it was savaged by opposition Republicans as a “tax and spend” flop that would do little to end the country’s fiscal trauma.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the Republican blueprint would show that the party is demonstrating “leadership in Washington.”
“Most Americans agree: We ought to stop spending money we don’t have. We don’t want America to devolve into what some of the European allies now have to deal with,” Cantor told Politico magazine. “We have a plan.”
A new House plan would reportedly further lower discretionary spending levels already agreed to in last August’s contentious Budget Control Act (BCA), a debt deal that aims to reduce the deficit by more than $900 billion over 10 years.
Democrats warned such a move would threaten a government shutdown.
“Rather than trying to tear down the BCA, we should be holding it up as an example of what can be accomplished if we are willing to set aside our differences and work hard to find bipartisan solutions to our nation’s challenges,” Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, a Democrat, wrote in a letter Monday to House Speaker John Boehner.
Ryan appeared willing to carve out a more politically sustainable position, enrolling support of Democratic Senator Ron Wyden with whom he worked late last year on Medicare reform.
Supporters say the plan would maintain traditional Medicare as an option, The Hill newspaper reported.
But analyst Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, wrote that the proposal would hurt seniors.
“The Ryan-Wyden plan would shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries rather than protect them from cost increases, in part because the payment that beneficiaries would receive to help them buy coverage would likely fail to keep pace with health care costs,” he wrote.
“The plan also would likely lead to the gradual demise of traditional Medicare by making the pool of Medicare beneficiaries smaller, older and sicker — and increasingly costly to cover.”
[Image via Flickr user Medill DC]