Over on the home page, I look at how today marks the beginning of what should be an intense budget battle that will take place over the next several months — one in which Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) will play a starring role:
All eyes will be on President Obama this evening as he delivers his much-anticipated State of the Union address. But it’s a momentous day for House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) as well. Not only has he been tapped to deliver the GOP response to Obama’s speech, but by the time the president arrives at the Capitol, the House almost certainly will have passed a rules resolution giving him unilateral authority to roll back the budget to 2008 levels. This, as you’ll recall, was a central component of the GOP’s “Pledge to America.” . . .
[T]oday’s vote on the rule will force all House members to go on the record on spending cuts and — because most Democrats will likely oppose the measure — set up a contrast between the two parties ahead of the president’s address. It will also serve to highlight Ryan’s remarks. All considered, today will mark the opening salvo of the showdown over the budget.
The new rule only applies to the remainder of fiscal year 2011 (through September). In the absence of a budget — the Democrats never passed one last year — Congress must act to keep things running when the current continuing resolution expires on March 4. Just this morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) announced that the House would hold a vote on a new continuing resolution on February 14, which, in addition to being Valentine’s Day, is also the day before President Obama is set to release his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012. Ryan will then use the president’s proposal to craft a budget of his own.
In the meantime, Democrats have seized upon today’s vote, as well as Ryan’s selection to give the SOTU rebuttal, to launch a concerted political attack on Ryan, and specifically to slam his entitlement-reforming “Roadmap for America’s Future” with some rather doomsaying accusations. Here’s an except from a Democratic talking points e-mail obtained by National Review Online (emphasis mine):
Tomorrow, Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, will bring a one-page, numberless “Budgetless Resolution” to the House floor for a final vote.
The GOP “Budgetless Resolution” ignores job creation, contains no specifics cuts and provides no serious plan to reduce the deficit. This numberless budget comes on the heels of GOP leaders walking back the promise that the first order of business in a GOP Congress would be to cut $100 billion in spending.
In fact, the GOP has already admitted Ryan’s budgetless resolution is only “to manufacture a floor debate.”
Also tomorrow, MR. Ryan – a chief advocate for eliminating Medicare and privatizing Social Security – was chosen by the GOP leadership to deliver the Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address.
Mr. Ryan’s 2010 budget proposal, The Roadmap for America’s Future,” would privatize and cut Medicare and Social Security and raise taxes on middle and low-income families. This proposal has the full support of the current House Republican leadership.
Here’s Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
Picking Representative Paul Ryan to give the State of the Union rebuttal is a clear sign that House Republicans will move full speed ahead with plans that would have a devastating impact on seniors who are already struggling to get by. As if it wasn’t already clear, House Republicans are now doubling down on their disastrous plans to gamble Social Security funds on Wall Street and dismantle Medicare.
Yesterday, on a joint conference call, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), said that in picking Ryan, the GOP was essentially endorsing all aspects of the “Roadmap.” And as you might expect, they don’t think very highly of the plan:
“The Ryan plan essentially relives the richest Americans from any responsibility to pay for the support of their country,” he said. “Our country should not be a country where the super rich get to play by different rules than people who are working their way up to their own American dream.”
Sanders has even vowed to bring the “Roadmap” to a vote on the Senate floor:
“I will do my best to bring the Ryan plan to the floor of the United States Senate, to give my Republican colleagues the opportunity to vote to privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and make massive cuts on programs needed by ordinary people at the same time as they give tax breaks to the rich,” Sanders said Monday evening on MSNBC.
It has become a favorite tactic of Democrats to denounce the individuals elements of Ryan’s plan, while simultaneously (and perhaps disingenuously) praising him for actually coming up with one:
“Let me begin by stating very clearly that I applaud the Republicans for choosing Mr. Ryan,” [Sen. Sanders] said. “Up until this point, the GOP leadership has been vague about what fed programs they want to cut. On the other hand, Mr. Ryan has been very clear.”
As NRO’s Bob Costa reports, Republicans aren’t exactly lining up to endorse Ryan’s plan. But the Wisconsin Republican has long insisted that he didn’t write the Roadmap in search of endorsements, rather it was merely an attempt to start a larger “adult conversation” over how to address the nation’s fiscal crisis.
That won’t derail Democrats from trying to twist the narrative in their favor. With the budget process set to get under way in the next couple of weeks, it’s clear that they intend to use Ryan’s rising profile, and tonight’s speech, to force a (rather un-adult) discussion over the next few months about the Roadmap — specifically its approach to entitlements — in the hope that Republicans just won’t have the political will to follow through on serious reforms.