House Republicans To Unveil Budget Plan

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan releases the House GOP budget Tuesday, likely including a proposal to restructure Medicare. That idea brought much criticism from Democrats and advocates for the elderly when Ryan pushed it least year.

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This morning, House Republicans unveiled a new budget plan on Capitol Hill. And like President Obama's budget document last month, the GOP's version is as much a political statement as an actual road map. NPR's Tamara Keith has that story.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In some ways, this budget is a sequel. This time last year, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a controversial budget document that passed the House with strong GOP support.

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REP. PAUL RYAN: And we're back with a budget that offers real solutions again.

KEITH: That's Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, in a three-minute web video posted yesterday afternoon. It has a feel that's part movie trailer, part campaign ad, part wonky infomercial.

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RYAN: Our plan includes no changes for those in and near retirement; instead of government bureaucrats, puts patients in control of their health- care decisions. We propose tax reform that's common sense - a plan that lowers tax rates and closes special-interest loopholes.

KEITH: When it comes to Medicare, this plan would allow seniors in the future to choose between government coverage and private insurance. It's somewhat less severe than what the House GOP proposed last year. And in fact, Ryan has been working with a Democrat in the Senate on this concept. But already, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is using the proposal to go after vulnerable incumbents, with robo-calls that charge this new budget chooses millionaires over Medicare. Rep. Tim Griffin, a freshman Republican from Arkansas, says he's willing to put up with the inevitable negative campaign ads.

REP. TIM GRIFFIN: If you came up here to just perpetuate yourself in office, then that may be your main concern. But a lot of us came up here to actually - trying to make changes. And I think if you want to deal with our fiscal situation, you have to deal with Medicare.

KEITH: But dealing with Medicare last year didn't go entirely well for House Republicans. That budget was dead on arrival in the Senate, and Democrats were able to use the Medicare issue to win what had been a solidly Republican House seat in New York. Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and a longtime budget watcher. He says this budget should satisfy the GOP base.

STAN COLLENDER: The Republican problem is that they've got to appeal to the base now, but then they're going to have to broaden their appeal to independents and hopefully, some Democrats, later in the year. And that's going to be very difficult to do when you're attacking Medicare.

KEITH: The pitch House Republicans are going to have to make is that they're saving Medicare, not attacking it. Of course, that's the same pitch they tried to make last year, with mixed results. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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