Washington Report: Government Stays Open For Business As Budget Debate Continues; Republicans Reveal 2012 Budget

Our insider's report on politics in the nation's capital

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  • GOP’s 2012 Budget Sparks Fury Among Democrats

Last week House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) unveiled a 2012 budget that Republicans say offers a “path to prosperity.” It would privatize Medicare and turn Medicaid into a community development block grant program that could mean higher medical costs for beneficiaries. It also lowers taxes for corporations and wealthy citizens while reducing benefits such as Pell Grant awards, reducing them to 2008 levels.

Most important, it sets the stage for what will certainly be a bitter partisan debate. Fresh off of the continuing resolution battle, conservative House Republicans, including most if not all the freshman class, will be in no mood for compromise while Democrats fight to preserve programs that the nation’s most vulnerable populations rely on. In fact, President Obama will deliver a major speech on the budget Wednesday, laying out an aggressive plan for deficit reduction that would include reforming entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid. He also is expected to call for higher taxes for the wealthy who can afford to contribute a little bit more.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Senior White House Advisor David Plouffe said that there has to be a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction.

“We’re not going to win the future in this country unless we invest in education, in research and development, in innovation and infrastructure. So that’s going to be his North Star in these spending decisions. How do we make sure that it is balanced, that we are investing in the things that are going to allow us to win the future?” Plouffe said.

Congressional Black Caucus chairman Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) did not mince words in his rejection of the Republican budget, however. He asserts: “It is clear the Republican Leadership’s budget definitely charts a different course. Claiming that their reckless and draconian cuts will benefit our children and grandchildren is preposterous. This budget does not support, protect or uplift hardworking American families, it will significantly harm them.” He also maintains that the GOP is loyal to “the rich and big business at the expense of our seniors and our most vulnerable communities,” declaring the GOP’s budget proposal a “road to nowhere.”

Soon the nation will hit its legal debt limit, and Congress will be asked to raise it. Both Republican leaders and rank-and-file members have repeatedly maintained that they will only vote for raising the debt ceiling in exchange for deep cuts in government spending. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) said that the U.S. was facing “a fiscal train wreck.”

“There is no way we Republicans are going to support increasing the debt limit without guaranteed steps being put in place to ensure the spending doesn’t get out of control again.”

Expect this brawl to grow in ferocity.

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