Last night, I spoke with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who became ranking member on the House Budget Committee after the election. “We will have a Democratic alternative,” he told me. “We’ll have it ready as a substitute when the Republican budget comes to the floor of the House, which is a week from tomorrow.”
That seemed, I said, like a bit of a tight schedule. Ryan had been working on his budget for for months. Had Van Hollen been preparing his own budget during that period? “I have, for a long time,” Van Hollen said. “We want to demonstrate that you can get responsible and serious deficit reduction by making different choices than the Republicans are making.”
There’s no doubt that it’s possible. If you let the Bush tax cuts expire, implemented the Affordable Care Act (including, importantly, the excise tax and the Independent Payment Advisory Board, both of which Ryan would repeal), extended the payment-board model to Medicaid, and capped both non-defense discretionary and defense discretionary, you’d pretty much be there. But Democrats have been very reluctant to let the Bush tax cuts expire for anyone but the very rich, and they’ve had trouble communicating the cost savings in the health-care law, much less expanding them. So it’ll be interesting to see where Van Hollen and the Democrats go with this. Ryan has really raised the standard for policy ambition, and it’ll be hard to get much attention for a budget that doesn’t follow his lead on that.