Senate budget chief cool on Ryan plan

Says work will be based on ‘Gang of Six’ proposal

Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
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“I want to make it perfectly clear that Congress will raise the debt ceiling,” Mr. Geithner said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “They told the president that on Wednesday in the White House.”

The Ryan plan would eliminate or curtail hundreds of federal programs that Republicans consider duplicative, bring non-security discretionary spending below 2008 levels and hold to a Republican pledge to ban earmarks.

Despite Mr. Ryan’s proposed spending cuts, his budget wouldn’t show a surplus for about two decades. But he said the country faces another economic crisis unless spending is curbed significantly.

Democrats say the plan shows that Republican priorities are more aligned with the wealthy and big business, not the middle and lower classes.

One of the most contentious aspects of the Ryan plan is a provision that would convert the government’s Medicare health plan for seniors into a system in which the government would provide payments for private health insurance plans. The conversion would begin in 2022, though seniors covered by Medicare at the time would be allowed to stay on it.

Democrats say the plan would “dismantle” Medicare and force seniors to pay more out-of-pocket health care expenses.

“The whole reason we created Medicare to begin [with] was because private health insurance market could not provide seniors with affordable health care,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

But Mr. Ryan said Medicare will go bankrupt in nine years unless drastic reforms are taken.

“We think we should keep the promise to current seniors and people 10 years away from retiring, but then reform the system for the next generation so that it’s safe and solvent,” he said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

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