Tea party insurgency could unravel Paul Ryan Republican budget plan

Conservatives in Congress, led by three tea party senators, are balking at Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican House budget, saying it doesn't balance the budget quickly enough. 

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin (l.) speaks about his budget plan entitled 'The Path to Prosperity,' Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Republican House budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan Tuesday is already splitting Republicans. 

There are those that love it – that laud Ryan for taking on tough issues and pushing a national conversation about the key conservative issues of debt and taxes. But there are also those who say it doesn’t go far enough.

It is a replay of the fractures that have made the Republican caucus so unwieldy since the 2010 midterm elections. And with Democrats lining up to take shots at the bill, which they say would "end Medicare as we know it," a split republican front raises questions over whether Congressman Ryan's proposal will be able to withstand the coming onslaught.  

Take the GOP presidential contenders, who were mostly positive, calling the budget "bold" and "courageous," though Rick Santorum said that it needed to cut spending faster.

The fourth presidential candidate – Rep. Ron Paul of Texas – and many party conservatives, however, are against the plan. 

No matter its positives, the budget is a “disappointment for fiscal conservatives,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

Their criticism centers on what they see as two serious flaws.

Primarily, conservatives say, the Ryan budget takes too long for spending to equal revenues: Ryan’s budget balances in 2040. That’s a heavy burden for some congressional Republicans who are proponents of a balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution. In 2010, many signed the tea-party inspired Pledge to America that promised, in part, to cut discretionary spending back to 2008 levels.

“When it comes to the budget, dadgummit, we made some promises,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) of Texas at a talk with other Republican congressmen on Tuesday. “I appreciate so much the great work of Paul Ryan but we took a pledge a year and a half ago and we said we’d cut more than is being cut.”  

Second, the budget threatens to undo long-term spending caps agreed to as part of last summer’s debt fight. Conservatives grudgingly moved off their insistence of no hikes in the nation’s debt ceiling in exchange for strict caps on future spending. They smell betrayal in anything that would go back on that agreement.  

“This budget is asking Americans to trust future Congresses to do the hard work later. It is hard to have confidence that our long-term fiscal challenges will be met responsibly when the same Congress that passed the Budget Control Act wants to ignore it less than one year later,” Mr. Chocola said in a statement.

“The Club for Growth urges Republicans to support a budget that balances in the near future and complies with the Budget Control Act,” he added.

To get a sense of what a budget palatable to the GOP’s most conservative members would look like, one need only look to another budget proposal unveiled by three Senate conservatives this month.

The plan put together by Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and Mike Lee of Utah slashes spending by more than $5 trillion below Ryan’s budget and $11 trillion below President Obama’s budget. It replaces Medicare entirely, offering in its place the same health plan offered to members of Congress and the federal workforce. It wipes out the entire tax code in favor of a flat 17 percent tax rate for individuals and corporations.

And, most importantly, it balances the budget within five years.

In a recent Politico opinion article, five Republican senators – the authors of the Senate budget proposal plus Marco Rubio of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – wrote that “balancing the budget within 10 years seems a minimal threshold of fiscal seriousness.... We no longer have 30 or 40 years to solve this problem.” 

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