House Republican leaders are considering attaching the Ryan budget to the debt ceiling bill as an incentive to win over tea partyers, leadership aides say.
But the Ryan budget would be a non-starter in the Senate, where Democrats consider the proposed spending cuts and changes to Medicare and Medicaid to be far too extreme.
The Ryan plan would alter Medicare such that seniors would pick from a list of private insurance plans and the federal government would only subsidize their coverage. Medicaid, the health program for the poor, would be turned into a block grants program, with the federal government shipping money to states and letting states spend it.
The Ryan budget does not address Social Security or tax loopholes for corporations, both potential areas of savings. And it would lower the top income and corporate tax rate to 25 percent.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) outlined his strategy recently in a private session with Senate Republicans: He would make Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) rely only on Democratic votes to pass the bill, forcing Democrats up for reelection in 2012 to vote for the measure to reach a 51-vote threshold, according to aides with knowledge of the talks. McConnell has also urged his caucus not to filibuster the debt ceiling, arguing that he does not want the party to be blamed for a debt crisis.
Democrats, meanwhile, plan to push for savings in two areas ruled off the table in the most recent budget fight: military spending and tax increases.
“We’re going to have to have an expanded playing field,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat. He also suggested that subsidies to oil companies are a ripe target.
But some prominent voices in the party’s liberal base argued that Democrats will be at a disadvantage in these fights: By allowing Boehner to secure $38 billion in spending reductions last week — far steeper cuts than Democrats initially had been willing to concede — they have emboldened House Republicans, particularly those allied with the tea party, to seek more concessions next time when the stakes are higher.
“The tea partyers held the House Republicans hostage, and the House Republicans held the rest of the government hostage,” said Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. “We can expect a repeat performance. Once you pay off hostage takers, there’s no end to how many times they’re going to demand more and more ransom.”
Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.