House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan on Monday defended his Medicare overhaul plan that has become a top political target for Democrats in Washington, D.C.
In a speech before the Economic Club of Chicago, the Wisconsin Republican maintained, “We cannot avert a debt crisis unless we directly address the rising cost of health care.”
Ryan said his plan to overhaul Medicare would “give seniors the power to deny business to inefficient providers. [Democrats] plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors.”
Ryan’s remarks, delivered in President Barack Obama’s hometown, come as the plan is facing increased criticism from Democratic lawmakers who view it as a political weapon that will help drive seniors away from GOP candidates across the country. House Republicans passed Ryan’s budget blueprint, including the Medicare plan, last month, but House GOP leaders and potential Republican presidential candidates have had trouble harmonizing behind a message on Ryan’s plan. Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to make it a singular issue in their messaging strategies.
Ryan also addressed his broader budget plan. Using stark language to describe the country’s economic struggles, Ryan said Washington needs to respond by simplifying the tax code. He blamed the rising debt on explosive health care costs and criticized Obama for seeking to pass those costs off on wealthy Americans through tax increases.
“Chasing ever-higher spending with ever-higher tax rates will decrease the number of makers in society and increase the number of takers,” Ryan said. “Able-bodied Americans will be discouraged from working and lulled into lives of complacency and dependency.”
Ryan warned that if Congress does not take on entitlements, a “debt-fueled economic crisis” will “force massive tax increases on everyone and indiscriminate cuts on current beneficiaries — without giving them time to prepare or adjust.”
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.