Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) briefed her colleagues on a competing plan, to be released Wednesday, that would raise taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade and spend nearly $100 billion on a new jobs package — ideas Republicans have firmly rejected.
“They’re opening bids. But they’re opening bids from three years ago,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, which champions deficit reduction. “The real question is: Do they start a negotiation this year? It’s not where they start, it’s where they finish. So you can take both of these budgets with a big grain of salt.”
Obama seemed to do that Tuesday in a lunchtime meeting with Senate Democrats, the first of four sessions he plans to hold this week with rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties.
While the White House issued a statement criticizing Ryan’s blueprint as “the wrong course for America,” Obama told Senate Democrats to expect a months-long debate over fiscal issues that will begin in earnest only after each chamber has approved its own partisan vision for improving the economy and shrinking the national debt.
“The best course now is to let the budgets go, get them into [a] conference [committee] and try to reconcile the two,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) said the president advised senators during the closed-door meeting.
Still, a senior administration official acknowledged that the dueling blueprints illustrate the immense challenge of trying to forge a compromise between a president and Democratic lawmakers, who insist on a big dose of new tax revenue to reduce borrowing, and Republicans, who refuse to consider any additional revenue beyond the relatively modest tax increase adopted Jan. 1.
Ryan, who campaigned against Obama last year as the GOP vice-presidential nominee, is offering the more uncompromising spending plan by far, one that Democrats say ignores Obama’s convincing reelection victory less than five months ago.
In addition to repealing the president’s health-care expansion, the 91-page blueprint proposes rolling back the administration’s Wall Street reforms and opening federal land to oil drilling. Ryan also would protect the Pentagon from automatic spending cuts known as the sequester by shifting those reductions to domestic agencies. And he proposes to trim domestic agencies by an additional $250 billion over the next decade.
All told, Ryan would slice $4.6 trillion from projected spending, with more than half of those savings — $2.7 trillion — coming from the big health-care programs, primarily Medicaid and Obama’s Affordable Care Act.