Ryan in budget spotlight on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is in the spotlight for his conservative budget priorities, including tax cuts for the rich and major changes to Medicare, observers say.

The Wisconsin Republican, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, had suffered heavy backlash from seniors last year over a plan to make big changes to Medicare.


But the Los Angeles Times reported Ryan has re-emerged in the forefront as the GOP embraces his approach, which includes a new version of changes to Medicare.

The budget he is to release will reflect his conservative priorities, the Times said.

In his Medicare proposal last year, Ryan sought to replace the program's guarantee of medical coverage with a plan giving seniors a fixed amount of money to buy their own insurance.

Ryan's new budget proposal is expected to still give seniors a fixed amount but also to allow them to use that money to continue with traditional Medicare coverage. Under the plan, seniors would pay some out of pocket if the program's costs exceed the subsidy or they could buy an alternative plan.

The latest Ryan Medicare proposal had been opposed by former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich as "right-wing social engineering" but has since received support from Gingrich and another presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.


"People are ready to be talked to like adults, not like children. They know that something is wrong. They know this government's off its rails," Ryan said. "And I really think the politics, if we help push it, will turn to rewarding the people who are bold in taking on the problems -- and penalizing the people who don't."

But the plan has drawn criticism from Democrats.

"You can dress up a pig, but it's still a pig," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The problem with Republican budgets is they consistently ask seniors to be the first to sacrifice their Medicare without asking millionaires to give up a nickel."

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