House Democrats will propose a competing long-term budget plan in the coming days in a high-stakes gamble aimed at not ceding political ground to Republicans on fiscal matters.
The move by Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen allows Democrats to have a voice in the all-consuming budget debate. However, it also poses risks for the Caucus because various factions are planning their own budget proposals.
The decision to put forward an alternative to the proposal by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) follows more than a month of meetings between Van Hollen and his Democratic colleagues. The Maryland Democrat sat down with nearly every ranking member, held a meeting last month with leaders of the Tri-Caucus and has been in regular contact with his fellow Democratic leadership colleagues. One Democratic leadership aide said Van Hollen aggressively pushed for a separate House product despite arguments that the president’s budget was sufficient.
At a press conference Tuesday, Van Hollen vowed to press on.
“Yes, the Democratic Caucus will have an alternative, and the alternative will reduce the deficits in a serious and predictable and steady way, and it will demonstrate a very different approach going forward,” he told reporters.
Van Hollen did not share specifics of his plan or say when it would be unveiled, only assuring that “certainly the Democratic alternative would be ready for floor debate” next week. Instead, he focused on lobbing bombs toward the GOP for a budget plan that he charged would decimate Medicare and Medicaid and represents “a recycled, rigid ideology.”
The Budget Committee is scheduled to mark up Ryan’s budget plan today, and the measure will be on the floor by next week. Ryan’s proposal cuts $6.2 trillion in spending and $1.8 trillion in taxes over 10 years, privatizes Medicare insurance and shrinks Medicaid. The proposal also eliminates health care subsidies included in the health care reform law.
Democrats eagerly sought to tie Republicans to Ryan’s plan Tuesday while the GOP scoffed at the minority’s rhetoric given that they didn’t pass a budget while they controlled the House last year.
“Democrats will say whatever they think they can demagogue on, and so what? That’s their job. They’re in the minority,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said. “They don’t have to govern. They don’t have to be responsible. They can just make noise. It’s their job.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.