House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan says he won’t have to make dramatic changes to the plan Republicans passed out of the House last year to bring the federal budget into balance in 10 years, in part because of improved economic circumstances and the tax increases that Congress approved this year.
“We were always close to balance,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters Wednesday, “and the changes in the baseline, revenue and spending, and some of the reforms we have to put in there, will get us there.”
Ryan is preparing to release a fiscal 2014 budget resolution next week that, like his previous budgets, will set out fundamental GOP policies through the direction of federal spending and will likely draw sharp criticism from Democrats for requiring steep cuts in programs. Democrats have already pointed to Ryan’s plan of balancing the budget in 10 years, a far more aggressive goal than the $287 billion deficit in 2022 that the Republican plan envisioned last year, as evidence of draconian reductions the GOP is looking for.
But Ryan said improvements in the economy that have changed the Congressional Budget Office’s outlook for coming years and the tax increases in the fiscal law (PL 112-240) that passed on Jan. 1 have changed the field.
He told reporters he did not to expect “some big new thing” in the fiscal 2014 proposal “because you don’t have to do a whole lot to get to balance.”
The fiscal law that passed Jan. 1 added more than $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years by raising tax rates on households that earn $450,000. And improved projections of economic growth also have brightened the fiscal picture by promising additional tax revenue, leading the CBO to change its baseline for measuring the fiscal impact of congressional actions. CBO in its latest outlook reduced the projected deficit over the next 10 years by about $800 billion.
Ryan declined to reveal any specifics of the budget resolution, which will be introduced March 12 and marked up by the House Budget Committee on March 13. The Senate Budget Committee is expected to mark up on March 14 a rival Democratic budget resolution, with Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington writing the plan. Murray has already criticized the prospective Republican plan, and GOP Rep. Peter T. King of New York has said he is uncomfortable with the level of cuts that may be necessary to balance the budget.
However, Ryan dismissed any concerns that, even with a reduced number of Republicans in the House since the election, he would not get enough GOP votes to pass the budget resolution.
“We’re unified,” he said. “We have members who have various priorities and preferences coming from different districts. But on the points of getting an agreement that gets cuts and reforms that get us on a path to balance, we are completely unified.”
Ryan said he spoke this week with President Barack Obama, who is reaching out to the GOP as the budget process begins, as part of an outreach plan by the White House that includes a meeting with Republican senators Wednesday and House GOP lawmakers next week. Ryan did not describe their conversation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.