WASHINGTON – Republicans in Congress are renewing their political assault on the nation’s new healthcare law, trying to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic achievement as part of the next battle over the federal budget.
Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee, said Sunday his forthcoming budget proposal will include repeal of “Obamacare,” as his party calls it. That position puts tea-party conservatives at odds with others in the GOP who want to find common ground with Obama on the nation’s fiscal woes after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health law.
In the Senate, conservatives will press for a vote this week to delay funding for the health law as part of a bill that must pass to keep the government running beyond March 27.
“We say we get rid of ‘Obamacare,’ ” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget committee and the party’s top budget expert, said he has no aspirations to rise in party leadership beyond committee chairman, putting to rest, for now, talk that he would seek the job of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
His presidential prospects in 2016 after being Mitt Romney’s running mate remain less defined.
“It made it more realistic in my mind,” he said about the experience, “something that I much better understand.”
House Republicans have launched an ambitious goal to bring the federal budget into balance in 10 years, a task made easier by the $1.2 trillion in sequester cuts, as well as the New Year’s tax increase on wealthier Americans.
Ryan also relies on more than $700 billion in Medicare savings that Obama achieved as part of the healthcare law – cuts that the Republican had criticized during the presidential campaign.
“We apply those savings to Medicare to make Medicare more solvent,” he said.
Key to Ryan’s blueprint, to be unveiled Tuesday, is a return to a proposed Medicare overhaul that would create a voucher-like system for the next generation of seniors – when those who are now 55 or 56 become eligible for the program at 65. Under Ryan’s plan, seniors would be given a set amount to apply toward the purchase of private health insurance or toward the cost of Medicare.
Critics say that would shift healthcare costs from the government to seniors, because there is no guarantee the value of the support would be enough to cover the costs of an insurance policy.
Ryan had considered starting the program even earlier, but indicated Sunday he may be backing away from what was expected to have been a political battle.
“This guarantees that Medicare does not change for people in or near retirement and it also guarantees for those who of us who are under the age of 55 that we actually have a Medicare program when we retire,” Ryan said on the show.
At the same time, Ryan is picking apart the new healthcare law in his budget – setting up a potential internal struggle within the party.
Ryan would undo Obama’s planned expansion of Medicaid, which under Obama’s plan would provide coverage for more Americans beyond its current reach as the health safety net program for the poor, disabled and low-income seniors in nursing homes. Ryan would turn the program over to the states.
But Republican governors are increasingly coming on board with Obama’s proposed Medicaid expansion, which will be partly covered by federal funds, seeing it as a way to provide healthcare coverage to the uninsured.
Boehner has indicated House Republicans are likely to vote to repeal the healthcare law at some point, noting the party had done so in the last Congress.
Conservatives in the Senate, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party-aligned Republican from Texas, will press for a vote to delay funding for the health law this week as part of the government-funding bill.
Both parties and the president have said they want to avoid the specter of a government shutdown and to instead turn to a broader conservation to improve the nation’s budget outlook this summer.