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Paul Ryan releases new GOP budget plan: What's in it?

The Republican House budget, released by Rep. Paul Ryan, scales back Medicare reforms that hurt GOP candidates last year, but sharpens contrast with President Obama on debt.

By Staff writer / March 20, 2012

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., center, holds up a copy of his budget plan, titled 'The Path to Prosperity,' Tuesday during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Washington

Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican budget hawk who became a lightning rod last year over his plan to reform Medicare, introduced a Republican budget plan Tuesday that aims to "sharpen the contrast" with President Obama on debt. 

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The proposal scales back the controversial Medicare reforms that drew such a strong response from Democrats a year ago. But it offers a Republican touchstone for spending, taxes, and debt likely to resonate in the national dialogue through November elections.

Moreover, it gives Republicans the ability to say they're promoting actual solutions to the nation's long-term financial problems and to remind voters that Senate Democrats haven't passed a budget in more than three years. 

“If we have a 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,” said Mr. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, at a morning press conference on Tuesday. “And we had a legal obligation in our budget laws to produce a budget.”

One thing the two proposals have in common? Roughly the same enactment prospects (zero). But the Ryan budget's contrast with the White House offers a Republican touchstone for spending, taxes, and debt likely to resonate in the national dialogue through November elections. It gives Republicans the ability to say they’re promoting actual solutions to the nation’s long-term financial problems and remind Senate Democrats that they haven’t passed a budget in more than three years. 

Like Ryan's proposal last year, the fiscal year 2013 budget has virtually no chance of passing the Senate or being signed by Mr. Obama. 

Democrats, who say last summer’s debt-ceiling accord will serve in place of a budget for the coming year, believe the proposal will help them paint Republicans as out of touch with middle America, particularly on the issue of Medicare. 

Outside of the politics, however, what’s really in the Ryan budget? 

Health care

Ryan is putting forward a Medicare proposal based on one he hashed out with Sen. Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon in January. Under this proposal, seniors can opt for traditional Medicare or receive government subsidies to buy private insurance. The subsidies will be indexed to changes in health-care costs and adjusted for the wealth of the individual senior. 

By contrast, Ryan’s first budget would have ended traditional Medicare for new participants in 2022, offering instead subsidies to purchase private insurance. Those subsidies would be adjusted for a person’s income and health and adjusted for inflation, not faster-rising healthcare costs, every year. The plan proposed gradually raising the eligibility age for Medicare to 67. 

Democrats last year pounced on Ryan’s proposal to end traditional Medicare for those under 55: one campaign ad even showed a Ryan-esque figure pushing an elderly woman off a cliff. The issue appeared to resonate with voters in special elections. For example, Democrats credit Ryan’s proposal with helping Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D) upset victory in a conservative New York congressional district last May. 

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