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Ryan stakes out GOP budget principles, pledges $4.6 trillion in savings

Republicans set the stage for this spring's fiscal battles by readying the debut of their new budget blueprint on Tuesday, which they said would achieve $4.6 trillion in savings and balance the U.S. budget within a decade. 

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., argued that his forthcoming budget — the third he's authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee — would be able to achieve a balanced budget by 2023, and boost the gross national product by as much as 1.7 percent in the meanwhile. 

The plan is unlikely to ever become law in its entirety; it assumes a repeal of President Barack Obama's health care reform law, and collects no new revenue from taxes, two elements which are unpalatable to Democrats. 

But budgets are often more political statements about a party's priorities than a hard governing blueprint. With that in mind, Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, sought to inoculate Republicans from criticism of the budget, and play offense against Democrats' forthcoming budget. 

"Our opponents will shout austerity, but let's put this in perspective," Ryan wrote in an op-ed to be published in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal. "On the current path, spending will increase by 5 percent each year. Under our proposal, it will increase by 3.4 percent. Because the U.S. economy will grow faster than spending, the budget will balance by 2023, and debt held by the public will drop to just over half the size of the economy."

Ryan was set to detail his full plan in a press conference on Tuesday morning, but his op-ed contained key elements of the budget. Ryan's plan would:

  • Achieve a total of $4.6 trillion in savings over the next decade
  • Enact tax reform that closes loopholes and deductions, while reducing the number of income brackets to two — one at 10 percent, the other at 25 percent
  • Change Medicare to a model in which future retirees would receive "premium supports" (Democrats call them vouchers) to subsidize the purchase of insurance from a menu of options, including traditional Medicare
  • Repeal the president's health care reform law
  • Approve the proposed Keystone XL transnational oil pipeline
  • Enact welfare reforms to give states more flexibility in enforcing the program

There are other aspects of Ryan's plan that the Wisconsin congressman will outline tomorrow. Many elements of the new Ryan budget are familiar Republican proposals, weaved together in a comprehensive statement of governing principles. 

The new budget, however, is only the opening salvo in a budget battle that could stretch throughout much of the spring. Congress acted earlier this year to extend the debt limit through mid-May, but only on the condition that the House and the Senate each pass a budget. The Senate budget, authored by Democrats, and their first in years, is also due this week.

And the political fighting over the dueling proposals has already begun. 

"I hate to break the suspense, but their budget won't balance—ever," Ryan wrote. "We House Republicans have done our part … Now we invite the president and Senate Democrats to join in the effort."