GOP Budget Choices: Offer Politically Risky Medicare, Medicaid Cuts Or 'Play It Safe'?

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan signals that he is "ready to take on health programs" as Capitol Hill continues to struggle with long-term spending concerns. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue talks regarding the current year spending measure still under consideration. A new continuing resolution that would fund government operations until April 8 has emerged. Though it includes deeper spending cuts, it is free of controversial riders such as language to restrict implementation funds for the health law. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report that legislation designed to further the defunding goal would add $5.7 billion to the deficit.

The Associated Press: Ryan Says GOP Ready To Take On Health Programs
Republicans in charge of the House are facing two unappealing options on the budget. One is to lead with their chins and offer politically toxic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and, perhaps, Social Security. Or, they could play it safe — but then endorse trillion-dollar deficits that would enrage their tea party backers (Taylor, 3/11).

Politico: Budget Talks, New Continuing Resolution In Play
Adopting the same format as Boehner's first short-term funding resolution, the new extension would impose additional spending cuts of $2 billion a week through April 8 for a total savings of about $6 billion. But it's also expected to be free of the controversial legislative riders opposed by the White House (Rogers, 3/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Three-Week Bill On Spending Seen
House Republicans plan to unveil another short-term measure Friday to keep the government operating while they negotiate over this year's federal budget with Democrats and the White House. … The new, short-term measure through April 8 would likely make additional cuts in spending from last year's levels at a rate of $2 billion a week. Republicans are divided, however, on whether the legislation should include policy riders, such as measures that restrict funding for the new health care law or other Obama administration initiatives. Many conservatives feel strongly about including such limits, but GOP leaders are warning that such additions could generate too much controversy and threaten a government shutdown (Hook, 3/11).

The Hill: CBO: Defunding Health Reform Boosts Deficit
A Republican plan to withhold implementation funds for the Democrats' new health care law would add $5.7 billion to the deficit over 10 years, the nonpartisan congressional scorekeeper said Thursday. In a long-term spending bill approved last month, House Republicans voted to block the federal government from using funds to implement the sweeping reform law, enacted almost a year ago. The defunding vote has become a point of contention as Republicans and Democrats try to hammer out a long-term spending measure to keep the government running past March 18. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Thursday that choking off implementation funds would cut the deficit by $1.6 billion for the rest of the year, but it would increase spending by $3.1 billion in 2012 and by smaller amounts each year through 2021 (Millman, 3/10).

CQ HealthBeat: Blocking Health Care Overhaul Funds Would Add $5.7 Billion To Deficit, CBO Says
The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that blocking funding for the health care law would mean some short term-gain — a cut in the deficit of $1.4 billion for the rest of the fiscal year. But it would add $5.7 billion to the deficit over a decade. The CBO said all these numbers are "highly uncertain," however, because the reality would depend on how the Obama administration interpreted the defunding provisions of the fiscal 2011 spending bill (HR 1) — "in particular, how broadly or narrowly the administration would define what is meant by 'carrying out' the provisions of those laws." The CBO analysis — in a five-page letter from Director Douglas Elmendorf to Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee — likely will have no practical effect, since the bill was defeated in the Senate, and any spending bill that defunds the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) would be vetoed by the president (Bunis, 3/10). 

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