GOP budget takes aim again at Obamacare, Medicaid

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans

redoubled their efforts to roll back signature accomplishments of

President Barack Obama

on Tuesday, offering a slashing budget plan that would repeal new

health care subsidies and cut spending across a wide swath

of programs dear to Obama and his Democratic allies.

The GOP plan was immediately rejected by the White House as an approach that "just doesn't add up" and would harm America's

middle class. Obama said the plan would "slash deeply" into programs such as Medicaid.

Obama has rebuffed similar GOP plans two years in a row and ran strongly against the ideas when winning re-election last year

— when its chief author, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was on the Republican ticket.

Ryan's budget illustrates the stark differences in the visions of tea party-backed Republicans and Obama and his Democratic

allies about the size and role of government — with no obvious avenues for compromise.

Obama, in an ABC-TV interview Tuesday, said he would not seek to balance the federal budget in 10 years, as Ryan's plan attempts

to do, when he submits his fiscal blueprint to Congress next month.

"My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance," he said. "My goal is how do we grow the economy,

put people back to work, and if we do that we are going to be bringing in more revenue."

Senate Democrats are responding with a plan

that would repeal automatic spending cuts that began to take effect

earlier this

month while offering $100 billion in new spending for

infrastructure and job training. The Democratic counter won't be

officially

unveiled until Wednesday, but its rough outlines were described by

aides. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because

they weren't authorized to describe it publicly.

That plan by Senate Budget Committee

Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would raise taxes by almost $1

trillion over a decade

and cut spending by almost $1 trillion over the same period. But

more than half of the combined deficit savings would be used

to repeal the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that began

to hit the economy earlier this month and are slated to

continue through the decade.

All this was in the works as Obama trekked

to the Capitol to join Senate Democrats for their weekly closed-door

policy luncheon

as part of his bipartisan outreach efforts to lawmakers in both

House and Senate on the budget. Obama is pressing for a "grand

bargain" that would attract more moderate elements from both

parties — even as this week's competing budget presentations

are tailored to appeal strictly along party lines.

Obama meets with House Republicans on Wednesday.

At issue is the arcane and partisan

congressional budget process, which involves a unique, non-binding

measure called a budget

resolution. When the process works as designed — which is rarely —

budget resolutions have the potential to stake out parameters

for follow-up legislation specifying spending and rewriting the

complex U.S. tax code.

But this year's dueling GOP and Democratic budget proposals are more about defining political differences — as if last year's

elections didn't do enough of that — than charting a path toward a solution.

"If you look at the two budgets, there's not a lot of overlap," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, top Democrat on the

Budget Committee. He said the lack of "common ground" makes it necessary to make uncomfortable compromises.

One such compromise might be to adopt a

stingier inflation adjustment for Social Security cost-of-living

increases and the

indexing of income tax brackets. House Speaker John Boehner,

R-Ohio, pressed for the new inflation measure in both sets of

his failed previous budget negotiations with Obama, and the idea

was favorably discussed in the "supercommittee" negotiations

chaired by Murray in the fall of 2010.

But this "chained CPI" idea is nowhere to be

found in either the Ryan or Murray budgets. Obama did propose the idea

in his

meeting with Senate Democrats — but only as an element of a

broader deficit-reduction pact in which Republicans would yield

on approving new tax revenues.

"The president was pretty clear that there are pieces of the Social Security system he is willing to talk about. But he's

going to need some give from Republicans, as we all are," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Though White House officials say Obama would still propose the inflation measure as part of a big deal, on Tuesday they refused

to say whether the president would include chained CPI in the fiscal blueprint he's expected to deliver in April.

Driving the House GOP plan is a promise to

pass a budget that would balance the government's books, which the

measure would

achieve by cutting $756 billion over 10 years from the Medicaid

health program for the poor and disabled, cutting deeply into

the day-to-day budgets of domestic agencies and repealing new

health coverage subsidies enacted two years ago with Obama's

signature health care bill.

In last year's presidential campaign, Ryan ran against both Obama's promise to raise tax rates on the wealthy and more than

$700 billion worth of cuts to Medicare providers. But now, Ryan claims that money to help balance the budget — as well as

about $1 trillion in taxes over a decade passed by Democrats as part of Obama's health care overhaul.

"We're not going to refight the past, because we know that that's behind us," Ryan told reporters on Tuesday.

Ryan is moving on to a new battle over the

annual cap for the 12 spending bills that Congress is supposed to pass

each year.

His budget assumes that the $1 trillion in savings over the coming

nine years from controversial automatic spending cuts,

just now starting, much of the money coming from the day-to-day

agency budgets for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, will

stay in effect.

Ryan, however, would restore those cuts to

the Pentagon and instead makes domestic agencies absorb them. This

double-whammy

means, for instance, that non-defense appropriations would be

limited to $414 billion next year — which is $55 billion below

the caps already mandated under the automatic cuts. That would

likely mean gridlock when it comes time to advance appropriations

bills this summer.

Ryan's plan promises to cut the deficit from

$845 billion this year to $528 billion in the 2014 budget year that

starts in

October. The deficit would drop to $125 billion in 2015 and hover

pretty much near balance for several years before registering

a $7 billion surplus in 2023.

The White House weighed in against the Ryan plan, saying it would turn Medicare into a voucher program and protect the wealthy

from tax increases.

"While the House Republican budget aims to

reduce the deficit, the math just doesn't add up," said White House

Press Secretary

Jay Carney. "Deficit reduction that asks nothing from the

wealthiest Americans has serious consequences for the middle class."

Ryan has also revived a controversial plan

that would, starting in 2024 for workers born in 1959 or after, replace

traditional

Medicare with a voucher-like government subsidy for people to buy

health insurance on the open market. Critics of the plan

say the subsidies wouldn't grow with inflation fast enough and

would shove thousands of dollars in higher premiums onto seniors

before very long.

Meanwhile, the Senate turned Tuesday to a

bipartisan, almost 600-page measure for the ongoing fiscal year that

serves as the

legislative vehicle to fund the day-to-day operations of

government through Sept. 30 — and prevent a government shutdown when

current funding runs out March 27.

Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John McCain,

R-Ariz., held up the official start of debate on the measure,

complaining that

they hadn't had enough time to scrutinize it. The two are longtime

thorns in the side of senators on the powerful Appropriations

Committee.