GOP sets up budget battle

House Republicans unveiled a plan to trim federal spending. President Obama will release his own budget next week.

A House committee this week passed a Republican plan to trim $32 billion from federal spending in the seven months remaining before Washington’s fiscal year ends in September. The plan, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, would cut $40 billion from labor, health, education, transportation, foreign aid, and other programs while increasing defense spending. “Washington’s spending spree is over,” Ryan declared. President Obama will release his own budget next week, setting up a contest between the president’s plan, which will likely freeze spending at 2010 levels, and Republican efforts to roll back some spending to 2008 levels. However, some Democrats oppose any significant spending cuts, saying they’ll harm a fragile economic recovery; some Republicans, meanwhile, want to honor a GOP campaign promise to cut $100 billion this year.

All the GOP’s “righteous indignation and bloviated anger have summoned forth a hairball,” said Robert Reich in Business​ Recognizing that “Americans don’t want big spending cuts,” Republicans aren’t even pretending to attack Social Security, Medicare, and defense, which is where the real money is. “This is embarrassing.” Mostly it’s predictable, said Ezra Klein in It’s easy to do “deficit reduction in the abstract.” Making specific cuts to food safety, education, border security, and the like is very, very hard.

Since entitlement spending eats up more than half the budget, no credible plan can leave Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid unscathed, said William Kristol in Yet that’s precisely what this “worrisome” bill does. Surely the fired-up House freshmen will “insist on a serious GOP budget?” But there’s wisdom in Ryan’s measured approach, said National Review Online in an editorial. He recognizes the daunting “political challenge” that deficit reduction poses. “A five- or 10-year effort that continually reduces federal spending is vastly preferable to an attempt to achieve everything in a single shot that misses.” The Ryan plan represents “an actual, honest-to-God reduction” from the current spending level of $1.087 trillion. If Ryan’s budget is enacted, “Republicans will have a real accomplishment off the bat.”

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