By KEVIN WALKER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ryan Budget Plan, issued last week, is the latest move in another season of budget games between Republicans and Democrats.
A summary of the plan, dated March 12, is authored by chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). According to the plan, the proposed budget would stop spending money “we don’t have” by cutting out waste, fix “our broken tax code” to create jobs and increase wages, protect and strengthen important priorities such as Medicare and national security and reform welfare programs like Medicaid “so they can deliver on their promise.”
“What we say is, get rid of this ugly tax code, with all the Obamacare tax increases – medical devices and such, with the top tax rate going up as high as 44.8 percent on successful small businesses – and replace all of that, the Obamacare taxes, the fiscal cliff taxes, with a better tax system. That’s exactly the job of Ways and Means (Committee),” Ryan said last week.
Specifically, the Republican budget plan would reduce deficits by $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years by targeting described wasteful Washington spending, and it reforms “drivers of the debt,” according to the summary document published by the committee.
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) reacted to it last week, calling it a political document. “For the third time, the House Majority has put forward a political messaging document rather than a realistic budget that makes the balanced, tough choices we need to get our country back on solid financial footing,” he said. “The American people are tired of political games. It’s time to get serious.
“The House Agriculture Committee has repeatedly shown that it is possible to work together to find budget savings in a bipartisan fashion by making balanced cuts across farm bill programs. It wasn’t an easy process, but we did it because that’s our job.
“If the House Republicans do take the Ryan budget numbers seriously, I don’t see how they can be serious about passing long-term farm policy this year. If these are the budget priorities for the House Majority, agriculture might best be served by again extending the current farm bill,” he concluded.
The Ryan plan would cut $31 billion in farm program spending over 10 years and change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), sometimes still called food stamps, into a block grant program. It would also cut $120 billion from SNAP spending over 10 years.
By contrast, last year’s House Ag-passed budget would have cut $16 billion from SNAP over the same length of time. The full-Senate-approved bill would have cut $4 billion. According to the summary, the SNAP program is facing a budget crunch. In 2003, the program cost $25 billion. Today, it costs more than $80 billion, representing an increase of 12.5 percent a year since 2003. Much of the increase is because of the recession, it says, but not all. Enrollment has grown from 17 million recipients in 2001 to more than 46 million today.
One Congressional staffer, who asked not to be named because she is not authorized to talk about it on the record, said the Senate is not expected to take up the Ryan plan, nor is the House expected to take up the Senate plan. “It’s sort of a game we play up here,” the staffer said.
The chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), sounded more upbeat. “A fundamental part of governing entails writing and passing a budget,” Lucas said. “I applaud Chairman Ryan for once again demonstrating an ability to lead by producing a budget – and one that balances in 10 years.
“This is in sharp contrast to our Democratic counterparts in the Senate who have not produced a plan in four years, and President Obama who has yet to submit a budget proposal this year.
“The House Agriculture Committee remains committed to being a part of the solution in addressing our nation’s debt crisis. Last year, we developed a reform-minded, fiscally responsible farm bill that contributed to deficit reduction and we will continue on that same course this year,” Lucas said.