Amid the shutdown mania yesterday the conservative Republican Study Committee released its budget plan, which promises to balance the budget by 2020. (It is not scored so we can’t verify that the numbers are accurate.) A press release listed the key provisions: a freeze on discretionary spending at 2008 levels; adhering to Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s cuts on defense; block-granting Medicaid; a phased-in increase in the Social Security retirement age (for those 60 years old and older); Medicare reform and tax reform. It is striking how similar it is to the budget released by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
An RSC spokesman tells me that the organization uses Ryan’s Medicare reform as well as, for those 60 years old and older, a phased-in increase in the retirement age up to 67 years. The RSC takes Medicaid back to 2006 spending levels. Plainly, Ryan took a tack that was less disruptive to seniors (no Social Security cut, no impact on Medicare for those 55 years and up). But, as the spokesman for the RSC put it, “What we’ve done is build upon their very good efforts and show what it would take to balance the budget in 10 years. Either budget would lead to a vastly better future for the country than the one toward which the President’s policies are taking us.”
That’s a very significant comment, suggesting that the RSC is playing a complementary role, not an adversarial one in the process. Its budget merely highlights how un-extreme was Ryan’s effort.
Ryan’s office certainly sees it that way. Ryan issued a statement: “I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues on the Republican Study Committee in helping address our nation’s greatest fiscal and economic challenges. The FY2012 Budget Resolution that was approved by the House Budget Committee yesterday builds upon several reforms offered by Republican Study Committee leaders — reforms aimed to strengthen the social safety net, put the budget on the path to balance, and put the economy on the path to prosperity. I remain grateful to Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan for his leadership in changing Washington’s culture of spending and his steadfast commitment to fiscal discipline.”
It seems, to the dismay of the Democrats, that the Republican caucus is remarkably united. I expect very, very few ”no” votes from the Republican side on Ryan’s budget.