Congressional Republicans are on the verge of passing a budget that would balance within 10 years, repeal Obamacare and reform major entitlements all without raising taxes, but a confrontation soon looms between the GOP and a president who wants nothing to do with that agenda.
The Senate is expected to approve the House-Senate compromise on the budget this week. It passed the House largely along party lines last week.
“It was a remarkable challenge. The challenges get greater each year because the administration refuses to deal with the reforms that need to be put in place,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. “This is a big moment. It’s been 14 years since the House and the Senate agreed to a budget that balanced within a period of 10 years and this budget does just that.”
Price said the American people gave explicit marching orders at the ballot box, and Republicans are finally in position to press the issue now that they control both the House and Senate. He said lawmakers and the public both know that doing more of the same is simply not an option.
“You can’t continue to be in debt at $18-plus trillion and not do anything about it,” he said. “Every dollar that’s spent on interest and every dollar that’s borrowed is a dollar that can’t be used for paying the rent, for buying a house, for buying a car, for sending a kid to college, for starting or expanding a business. All the things the American people say they want to do are harmed by our current fiscal and economic path.”
He says the GOP plan is ambitious but clear.
“Our budget would get to balance within a 10-year period of time without raising taxes,” Price said. “It would make certain that we lay out a path to save, strengthen and secure Medicare and Medicaid. We protect Social Security. These are the programs that are going broke under their current path. We would repeal Obamacare in its entirety, all of its rules and regulations and taxes and make certain also we’re providing for a strong national defense.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.:
Repealing Obamacare is not just a major political and policy goal for Price. He said it would save taxpayers a lot of money, too.
“That literally saves us nearly $2 trillion over the next 10 years,” he said. “We would put in place patient-centered programs, patient-centered health care where patients, families and doctors are making medical decisions and not Washington, D.C.”
Price sees entitlement reform, particularly with respect to Medicaid, as another key ingredient in bringing government spending in line. He said that’s another trillion that could be trimmed.
“All you have to do is simply provide the states the opportunity and the flexibility to fashion a program that takes better care of their Medicaid population and is much more responsive to them and is much more flexible for the states and for the patients in those programs,” he said.
Another major priority in the GOP budget is attaching conditions to government benefits for able-bodied adults.
“In all the welfare programs that exist out there, the vast majority of them have no requirement whatsoever that the individual receiving the benefit,” Price said. “What we’ve put in place is simply an opportunity for the states to require either work or searching for work or some type of education path for the individuals receiving those welfare benefits. When you do that, you save nearly a trillion dollars a year.”
The budget is divided between mandatory and discretionary spending. Price said entitlements are the biggest drivers in mandatory spending and must be addressed.
“Unless we reform our mandatory spending programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), we will continue to squeeze the discretionary side of our budget, including defense and everything else … in a way that is not sustainable if we’re to accomplish the mission that we have to keep the nation safe,” Price said.
But some political critics see things much differently. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., was a member of the conference committee hammering out a budget compromise between the House and Senate.
“This conference report sends a strong message to students, seniors, and the underprivileged that their dignity and dreams are simply not of concern for the Republican Party,” Moore told Politico.
Price said the facts speak for themselves.
“Students are more in debt and much less likely to be able to pay for their education than they would under our program,” he said. “Seniors are suffering right now under a Medicaid program and a Social Security program that are going broke. They’re going insolvent, and the Democrats do nothing whatsoever to save those programs.”
He added, “For those who are indigent and down on their luck, this is an economy that is the worst economic recovery in the history of our nation.”
The toughest intraparty fight came over Pentagon spending. Many in the party believe the military has taken far too big of a hit in sequestration while others say it’s vital to honor the few spending restraints that still exist in the budget.
Price believes Republicans found a way to make both sides happy.
“What we utilized was the global war on terror funding stream to be able to provide the resources to get above the president’s level of spending on the Pentagon budget and hopefully put in place a process that will allow us to address this in the future where we don’t have to use that outside funding,” Price said.
However, the road to a balanced budget in the next decade is obstructed by some simple facts. The biggest hurdle is President Obama, who has no interest in advancing the core goals of the budget, especially when it comes to Obamacare.
“I’m not living under any illusion or delusion that he would actually sign that, but it’s important for the American people to know who’s standing in the way of progress and who’s standing up for progress and positive solutions,” Price said.
The House should have no problem voting to repeal Obamacare. Price strongly encourages the Senate to pass it through reconciliation, the same tactic used to pass Obamacare in the first place, which requires just a simple majority for approval.
He said Congress could still end up enacting major changes to the health-care laws this year. That would happen if the Supreme Court issues a ruling on King v. Burwell that determines the law only allows health-care subsidies to be obtained through state exchanges. Nearly three-quarters of the states refused to create their own exchanges. Their residents would then be responsible for massive health-care costs, and Congress would be compelled to save the federal exchange or blow up the system.
Now that the budget committees have largely wrapped up their work, the next challenge is to convince lawmakers to abide by it. Price said there are two priorities in that effort. The first is to go through appropriations bills one at a time and see what can be cut.
“The Appropriations Committee deals with the discretionary side of the funding, which is about at a trillion dollars for Fiscal Year 2016, which begins October 1. There are 12 subcommittees on the Appropriations Committee. We’ve already done two pieces of legislation through the committee, and they’ll work through the remaining 10 to send to the Senate,” Price said.
He said the House Education and Workforce, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees are all poring over federal spending in an effort to find savings and give the Senate stronger footing to pursue reconciliation.