House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed a budget Tuesday that he said can cut $4.6 trillion and bring federal finances to balance in 10 years, calling the plan an “invitation” to find common ground with President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Mr. Ryan’s plan kicks off what is likely to be the most important budget debate in Congress in four years, with Senate Democrats preparing a blueprint that will rely heavily on tax increases to cut red ink and Mr. Obama also promising a budget soon.
Lawmakers said that taken together, they will give voters a clearer picture of each party’s priorities at a time when all sides hope there is an opportunity to strike a broad deal on taxes and entitlements that could get a grip on federal debt, which has ballooned dramatically over the past six years.
“We believe that we owe the American people a balanced budget,” Mr. Ryan said. “And for the third straight year, we’ve delivered.”
Mr. Ryan’s plan relies in part on eviscerating spending on Mr. Obama’s health care law, and would add private competition into Medicare to try to control that program’s projected cost jump in future decades.
Although Mr. Ryan’s plan assumes the repeal of “Obamacare” to make way for a different system of health care reform, it used a baseline of tax revenue from the law and the New Year’s “fiscal cliff” deal.
The former vice presidential candidate acknowledged that the revenues make it easier to achieve balance, but he countered that House Republicans will work out a “pro-growth” tax code to return to their party’s principles and account for taxes that would be eliminated as part of a health care law repeal.
The Wisconsin Republican said the law is a “fiscal train wreck” with runaway spending and onerous mandates that will permanently harm the private insurance market and prospects for financial stability unless it is eliminated.
“We know without a shred of doubt we are consigning the next generation to an inferior standard of living,” Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats were quick to lambaste Mr. Ryan’s budget as a hypocritical and unworkable plan that burdens the uninsured and middle class instead of requiring more from the rich.
“The Republican budget is nothing more than more of the same,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “Americans deserve better than the same old fuzzy Republican math and budget gimmicks.”
Their reaction raised concerns about whether the two parties will be able to bridge the philosophical chasm that has stymied big deals for the past two years.
Mr. Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, is expected Wednesday to release the first Senate Democratic budget since 2009. Senate Democrats on Tuesday said her plan will call for about $1 trillion in additional taxes and about an equal amount of spending cuts during the next 10 years.
Mr. Obama said Tuesday in meetings with Senate Democrats that he would send them a budget the week of April 8 that would reflect the party’s priorities. Such a submission date would miss by about two months the statutory target for a president to provide Congress with a spending blueprint.
Unlike the Ryan plan, neither Mrs. Murray’s nor Mr. Obama’s blueprints are expected to offer a balanced budget during a 10-year time frame.