National Review Online: Ryan Returns
By Andrew Stiles
Working off the Ryan budget, House Republicans plan to advance legislation to reform health-care and entitlement programs, expand energy exploration, and replace the current tax code with a simpler, pro-growth alternative with lower rates and fewer loopholes. “We’re going to be advancing more specifics on these big issues of the day to show that Republicans are ready to govern, and that we have better ideas for tackling these problems,” he says. Ultimately, the goal of this year’s budget is to lay the groundwork for a “down payment” on the $16 trillion national debt.
For the first time in nearly four years, both houses of Congress will fulfill their legal obligations to pass a budget. The Senate Democrats’ proposed budget, which is set to be unveiled on Wednesday, is expected to call for a net increase in federal spending over the next decade, and a tax hike in the neighborhood of $1 trillion. It will never achieve balance, or come close to resembling the House plan. But the mere existence of a Senate budget, Ryan hopes, signals a return to regular order in Congress, which could potentially “move the ball” towards a bipartisan compromise, however minimal. “We’ve been in a stalemate for four years,” he says. “I’m very critical of the Senate’s budget, but at least they’re doing one. Let’s use this process to go through regular order to get an agreement.”
What would that look like? Ryan insists that raising taxes is a nonstarter; it’s bad policy and would “kill” bipartisan efforts to reform the tax code. “All Democrats really want is more tax increases to fuel more spending, and we’re just not going to join that party,” Ryan says. He doesn’t see a “grand bargain” in the offing either. An achievable outcome, he argues, would be “taking some of these spending cuts [in the GOP budget] and passing them through. Will they take all $4.6 trillion of our additional spending cuts? No. But let’s take some of them.”
Although Ryan has shown no signs of backing down on the policy front, he is seeking to change the way he and his Republican colleagues talk about the budget. The rhetoric surrounding this year’s budget rollout has echoed some of the themes he touched on in the poverty speech he delivered on the campaign trail in October. “What I don’t want to do is make this look like it’s an accounting exercise, a green-eyeshade exercise,” he says. “I see balancing the budget as a means to the end. And the end to me is a more flourishing economy, is improving the lives the people.”
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