Obama administration plans budget blitz
The House Budget Committee last week passed a Republican-written plan for 2012 that calls for major changes to the way Medicare and Medicaid operate.
Under that plan, Medicare beneficiaries would be allowed to choose from a marketplace of health plans, which could help the government control long-term costs. And Medicaid would be converted to a block grant program for states to experiment.
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said his plan will reduce deficits at a much faster pace than the president’s budget, which most analysts said didn’t address entitlement spending in any meaningful way.
Mr. Plouffe said the president this week will embrace the need to do something on Medicare and Medicaid, two of the big entitlement programs, though he said Mr. Obama will shy away from the changes to the benefit structure that Mr. Ryan has proposed.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Mr. Obama must go further than just a speech. He said given the poor reaction to the president’s 2012 budget, Mr. Obama should submit an entirely new one if he wants to play a constructive role in the budget debate.
“The president’s vision, whatever it is, must be presented in a detailed, concrete form,” Mr. Sessions said, adding he was troubled that the announcement came from Mr. Plouffe, the president’s campaign manager in 2008, rather than from a senior policy official such as the budget director.
Also looming in upcoming weeks is a fight over whether to raise the government’s debt ceiling.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said it would be “irresponsible” to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip in trying to win other concessions.
“This should be taken off the table now,” he said.
“There is no way that we Republicans are going to support increasing the debt limit without guaranteed steps being put in place to ensure that the spending doesn’t get out of control again,” Mr. Cantor said.
The cuts in the final 2011 compromise deal reached Friday are the biggest non-defense spending cuts in the country’s history when judged by dollar amount.
Still, they pale in comparison with overall spending. The federal deficit in the month of March alone is estimated to be $189 billion — dramatically more than the full-year cuts Congress is contemplating.
They also fall short of Republicans’ pledge to return non-defense discretionary spending to pre-stimulus levels.
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