- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2015

The chairman of the House Budget Committee on Monday said that 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the senior vote on the proposal from congressional Republicans to overhaul Medicare, the federal health benefit program for seniors.

Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, hinted that a top priority for Republicans would be to build off of the budget proposal outlined in recent years by Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and Mr. Romney’s running mate, that would eventually turn Medicare into a voucher-type program for people who have not yet reached retirement age.

The contention indicates that Mr. Price intends to be just as aggressive - if not more so - as his predecessor Mr. Ryan has been in working to combat the federal debt and rein in spending as chairman of the committee in the new Congress.

Mr. Price said one of the most important things the Budget Committee can do is to “normalize” the debate about such controversial issues like federal entitlement programs.

“Four years ago, nobody would have given us a prayer - a prayer - to be able to lay out a solution to save and strengthen and secure Medicare and thought that we would be able to sustain the onslaught coming from the other side,” he said. “We worked and we worked and we worked and we convinced our colleagues and convinced our friends and moved forward…with a positive solution - so positive that the Romney-Ryan team in 2012 on that proposal won the senior vote in this country.”

Exit polling showed the GOP ticket did win voters ages 65 and older. But other polling during the campaign also showed that voters believed Mr. Romney and other Republicans were more likely to cut Medicare than President Obama and congressional Democrats were.

With the architect of the plan, Mr. Ryan, on the GOP ticket, the issue was central to the campaign, with Democrats arguing Mr. Ryan’s plan would end the program as currently imagined and Republicans trying to argue that it was Mr. Obama’s health care plan that was taking money out of the system.

Mr. Price was speaking at the 2015 Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit, a two-day event hosted by the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Mr. Ryan now chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

As for more specific reforms to the budget process, Mr. Price mentioned the House GOP’s dipping its “toe in the water” on employing “dynamic scoring” to determine the cost of legislation. That system, favored by many Republicans, assumes legislation will induce responsive behavior from the general population, notably on tax cuts; Democrats say the projected outcomes are often exaggerated.

Mr. Price also said finding a sustainable fix to the formula used to calculate Medicare reimbursements for doctors and the debt ceiling as other issues for Republicans to address, with the next debt ceiling showdown probably running into the summer.

“The debt ceiling provides focus on this issue - the problem isn’t the debt ceiling; the problem’s the debt,” he said. “The problem is the debt, and that’s why we need to get our arms around this debt, we need to get our arms around the policies and the procedures that we need to put in place to put us on a path to balance and then to put us on a path to be able to pay off that debt.”

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