The biggest challenge for House Speaker John Boehner is controlling more than 80 GOP freshman House members.
The freshmen are new to the public policy-making field, and they are driven by a strict conservative ideology that pushed them into Washington. They are gung-ho for slashing budgets, cutting programs and balancing the budget, but their knowledge of what is politically feasible is small.
Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, is the new budget hawk on Capitol Hill. He is taking a hatchet to the federal budget and cutting anything and everything. He released his budget plan on behalf of the GOP earlier this week, which came with some eye-popping numbers.
Ryan’s budget plan would slash $6 trillion in the next 10 years, reform the “politically untouchable” Medicare and Medicaid and even cut taxes while removing loopholes that allowed companies like General Electric to pay no taxes last year.
Ryan’s plan also returns spending to 2008 levels, which is a dramatic cutback but not quite as far as the 80 freshmen GOP House members promised in their campaigns — some Republicans promised to roll back spending to 2006 levels. Ryan’s proposal also suggests defunding the Affordable Care Act, which will give health care to about 30 million more Americans.
According to Politico, the seventh-term GOP congressman’s Medicare and Medicaid plan proposed that block grants be given to states to fund Medicaid. This proposal would shift control of Medicaid from the federal government to the states. The block grants would serve as a federal grant for each state to fund their citizens who are on Medicaid.
Ryan’s budget plan to cut the deficit proposes no new ways to increase revenue for the federal government, and cuts next to nothing out of the Pentagon’s budget for defense spending.
Is the budget politically feasible without placing these two issues in the proposal? No.
Political analysts know Ryan’s timing to reveal his proposal was curious. Revealing the budget this week was politically risky as the government is in danger of shutting down. Revealing such a staunchly partisan and strictly conservative budget with no compromise at all with Democrats is risky to say the least.
President Barack Obama continues to hold meetings at the White House with Democratic and Republican leaders to strike a deal that will fund the government for the rest of 2011. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a budget deal is close but that he was not optimistic. Democrats want to cut $33 billion for the rest of this fiscal year, and Republicans want to make $40 billion in cuts.
One would think that a deal could come about with a compromise around $37 billion, but Republicans and Democrats have ideological disagreements about where those cuts should come from.
Ryan’s budget will pass in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives but has a 0 percent chance of passing in the Senate. A budget deal will come from a bipartisan agreement, not from what Democrats would call a radical, politically unfeasible proposal like Ryan’s.
As I ponder the proposal and the entire budget debate, it is terribly apparent that the entire Congress has taken its eye off providing any type of economic recovery proposals. Republicans came into office stressing jobs, jobs, jobs, but it seems as if the “Party of No” has become the “Party of No Jobs” in the eyes of still out-of-work Americans.
Balancing the budget will be a political hot topic for years to come in the United States, and it is important that American leaders not try to make a full-court shot right away. A sports team chips away at a deficit, making its comeback piece by piece and bit by bit it. The federal government must do the same. Political rhetoric and making speeches about cutting the budget is easy, but the time has come to make some tough decisions.
Alex Apple is a freshman political science and journalism double major from Nashville, Tenn.