McConnell not whipping up Ryan budget plan

May 19, 2011 at 12:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Republicans may leave the House GOP budget hanging as Senate party leaders say members of their caucus will vote their own conscience.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, while saying he will vote for House Budget Committee Chairman's Paul Ryan's budget plan, added his members should vote as they want on the 2012 budget proposal, The Hill reported Thursday.

Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the second- and third-ranking members of the Senate GOP leadership, said they would vote for Ryan's controversial plan, which, among other things, would shift Medicare to a voucher system in the private sector and transform Medicaid to a block grant program.

Regarding how the rest of the GOP conference will vote, Alexander said, "every senator will have to decide that for himself."

McConnell said Ryan offered a "budget to address our most pressing problems head-on at a moment when the president and other Democrat leaders simply refuse to do so themselves."

Even so, Republicans are undecided, with a group of centrists leaning against voting for the proposal because of its changes to Medicare benefits, The Hill said.

One GOP senator who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he thought Ryan made a serious tactical error by revealing Medicare reforms in his budget plan.

"All Ryan had to do was set an overall number and leave it up to the policy-making committees how to come up with the savings," the senator told The Hill. "The important number to focus on is that the federal government takes in $2.2 trillion and spends $3.7 trillion."

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