Top House Republicans give mixed signals on entitlement reform
Will House Republicans tackle entitlement reform in their 2012 budget?
It depends on whom you ask.
On Monday, two top House Republicans gave different responses when asked whether the GOP plans to make cuts to federal entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare when the party releases its proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year in April.
According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the answer is an unequivocal yes.
"We're going to include reform proposals in our budget to the entitlement programs," Cantor told reporters at his weekly pen-and-pad briefing. He said House Republicans will probably propose "some very bold reforms" to entitlement programs, but he declined to go into detail, noting that "there are a lot of different ideas being floated about."
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) sounded a more cautionary note.
"I'm not committing what's going to be in our budget because we haven't even written our budget yet," Ryan said Monday afternoon at a Capitol news conference.
Ryan, whose "Roadmap for America's Future" during the last Congress proposed restructuring Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, acknowledged Monday that House Republicans are concerned about entitlement spending but declined to go into detail.
"Obviously, we think entitlement reform's -- that's the biggest slice of the pie, so clearly we need to go there," Ryan said. "But I'm not going to get into what it's going to do in specific and how it's going to work, because we haven't written it yet. Anybody who knows anything about me knows that we have to tackle entitlements or they're going to tackle us."
Pressed further, Ryan laughed and responded: "Next question."
Spending on entitlement programs routinely comprises a huge chunk of the federal deficit. President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission recommended measures to restrain entitlement spending, and Obama himself stressed the need for a "bipartisan solution" to the problem in his State of the Union address last month. Even so, his proposed 2012 budget, which was released Monday morning, steers clear of any changes to federal entitlement programs.
Cantor took aim at the president's budget on Monday and said that the road ahead on entitlements ultimately depends on whether Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders sign on.
"We are going to tee it up for them, and there will be no excuses," Cantor said. "So if they don't take up our offer, then it's very plain, I think, for everyone to see who's interested in leading and who's not."
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