Will Representative Tim Huelskamp Kill GOP Entitlement-Reform Efforts?

At a Tuesday panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation, Representative Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.) said, of the new Ryan plan for entitlement reform, “I will be voting no. It’s not good enough.” Huelskamp is a member of the House Budget Committee; Ryan can only afford two other defectors if the budget is to make it out of the committee. “Its just another promise that I’m afraid will be broken,” said Huelskamp. “It’s not the big leap America so desperately needs.”

His out-front statement is giving cover, ironically, to more querulous Republicans, who don’t want to put themselves out there as favoring bold entitlement reform, but can now claim that the Ryan budget isn’t “good enough” as a way of symbolically maintaining their conservative bona fides.

Huelskamp cannot plausibly believe that Republicans will unite around a more aggressive deficit-reduction proposal — and, more importantly, that such a proposal could pass even a Republican-controlled Senate. Hence, what Huelskamp is likely to achieve is the opposite of what he claims he intends: the destruction of any meaningful effort to reform our health-care entitlements. And it is health-care entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare, which are almost entirely responsible for the growth in the government’s share of our economy.

I can’t put it any better than Ramesh does below, in a related context:

I have my disagreements with some of the Ryan plan’s elements and some of its omissions, but the idea that a plan that commits to $5 trillion in cuts from Obama’s budget, the prevention of a major tax increase, the reform of Medicare and welfare programs, and the repeal of Obamacare is “[o]n balance. . . a disappointment” strikes me as a failure of perspective.

No politically feasible deficit-reduction plan will ever be perfect. But any Republican who opposes the Ryan plan wholesale, because of its imperfections, is plainly not serious about reducing the size of government.

Avik Roy — Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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