House GOP Release 'Path To Prosperity' Budget
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. House Republicans are out with a budget proposal they say will cut the deficit, cut taxes, save Medicare and boost the economy. Of course, the White House and congressional Democrats don't see it that way. And the Republican budget plan is not likely to become reality. But as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, it is a significant political marker in a significant political year.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Budget committee chairman, Paul Ryan, says this budget is all about sharpening the contrast between the ideas of Republicans and the vision of the president and Senate Democrats.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: And so if we have difference of opinion with the president and the direction he and the Senate leaders have taken the country, which we do, we feel morally bound to offer a choice.
KEITH: That choice comes in the form of a budget document called The Path to Prosperity. It calls for reshaping Medicare, so that seniors in the future would choose between government coverage and private plans. It includes spending cuts that go beyond what the parties agreed to in the debt limit deal last summer. And Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, says it would rewrite the tax code.
RYAN: We're saying get rid of the tax shelters. Get rid of the loop holes. Lower tax rates for everybody.
KEITH: Under this plan, the top tax rate would drop from 35 percent to 25 percent and there would be only one other tax bracket, the 10 percent bracket. After that, the details get scarce. Roberton Williams of the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center says this leaves two big questions.
ROBERTON WILLIAMS: One is - when would the two rates apply? That is, which income levels would the 10 percent rate stop and the 25 percent rate start?
KEITH: Without that, there's no way of knowing who would see their taxes go up and who would see them go down. And next, to figure out how much revenue the plan would raise or how much it would lose, Williams said you need another piece of information.
WILLIAMS: Which tax breaks would disappear? Would we lose the tax deduction for state, local taxes paid? Would we lose the mortgage interest deduction? What would disappear in order to pay for the tax rate cuts? We just don't know yet.
KEITH: Paul Ryan insists the tax plan will be revenue neutral, but a House committee will be left to work out the details. Kind of like having ice cream before dinner, that's essentially the criticism coming out of the White House today. Here's spokesman Jay Carney.
JAY CARNEY: When you present all the good things in tax reform, like, hey, I'm going to give you a tax break and hey, I'm going to eliminate the AMT and then have no details on how you would pay for them, then it's pretty evident who's going to get stuck with the bill.
KEITH: Carney says it will be the middle class. There would be cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats see political opportunity. Even before the budget came out, the Democratic congressional campaign committee started robo-calling criticism into the districts of vulnerable incumbents.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL CALL)
KEITH: House Republicans argue they aren't ending Medicare, they're saving it from bankruptcy. Ryan says his party is prepared to take the heat.
RYAN: If we allow entitlement politics, fear that your adversaries will turn your reforms into a political weapon to use against you and we kow to that, then America is going to have a debt crisis.
KEITH: This proposal, the whole thing, is essentially dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but that isn't the point anyway. Ryan wants his budget to be part of the conversation come November - not just in congressional races, but in the presidential contest.
RYAN: Our nominee owes it to the country to give them a choice of two futures. We're helping him do that.
KEITH: Ryan says he's spoken with all of the remaining GOP presidential candidates and he says they believe the House Republicans are heading in the right direction. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.
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