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Ryan Budget Under Attack

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
As Rep. Paul Ryan (right) appears poised to try to reform Medicare again, he could seek support from Sen. Ron Wyden, whom he sponsored a similar measure with in December.

Democrats are already eager to score messaging victories off of Ryan's budget, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee charging in some vulnerable GOP districts that Republicans want to "end Medicare."

On a conference call with reporters Monday, House Democrats echoed the line, with Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) saying Ryan's budget "has called for the end of Medicare as we know it."

Ryan looks poised again to try to reform Medicare by installing a "premium support" system of vouchers from the government for beneficiaries to use to pay private insurers.

Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) came out with a variation of the measure back in December, and Ryan could again turn to Wyden as his chip for bipartisan support.

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky said on the Democratic conference call that there is "no difference in principle" between the original Ryan plan and the Ryan-Wyden plan.

"Both are, in fact, equally bad or only marginally different but still would end Medicare as we know it," the Illinois Democrat said.

Still, the first wave of Democratic action against whatever Ryan puts forward today will focus on the fact that it deviates from the BCA.

On Monday afternoon, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) urging them to keep their agreement on the spending levels. The two top Democrats said that failing to uphold the Budget Control Act deal "would risk a government shutdown" by delaying action on this year's spending bills.

"We believe that ignoring the BCA represents a breach of faith that will make it more difficult to negotiate future agreements," Conrad and Inouye wrote. "Rather than trying to tear down the BCA, we should be holding it up as an example of what can be accomplished if we are willing to set aside our differences and work hard to find bipartisan solutions to our nation's challenges."

Conrad will hold a briefing today just minutes before Ryan is scheduled to release his budget to file the deeming resolution setting the spending levels for the 2013 fiscal year, as required by the Budget Control Act. The move also serves as a signal to the House that tinkering with the agreement will jeopardize final passage in the Senate.

Privately, however, Democrats are banking that if Republicans move to reduce spending levels, they will make the political situation more difficult for themselves if they are forced to retreat to the original agreement that received significant bipartisan support in August.

"The fact that they're even having to relitigate it, and to do it so publicly, I think is problematic for them," a Democratic aide said.

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