The White House is scheduled to release President Joe Biden's first budget plan this week, which will likely include the Democrat's fiscal blueprint for the next decade. It's a mortal lock that congressional Republicans will denounce the document using predictable talking points about government spending and deficits, which the party forgot to care about over the last four years.
It was against this backdrop that the Republican Study Committee, one of the dominant caucuses in the House, unveiled a budget plan of its own a few days ago, and as the Washington Post's Henry Olsen explained, the blueprint is an amazing piece of work.
[The RSC budget proposal's] most notable features are its changes to the major entitlement programs most Americans rely on in old age. The age at which one receives full Social Security benefits would go up to 69 by 2030, from a planned rise to 67 in 2022. Medicare's eligibility age would rise from 65 to 69. Combined, these increases would likely keep many aging Americans in the workforce for years more than they expect or desire.
Olsen added that under the Republican Study Committee's plan, Medicare's structure "would also be thoroughly transformed." That's an understatement: Medicare currently exists as a guaranteed benefit for seniors, providing coverage through a robust government insurance program. The RSC intends to replace Medicare with a new model in which seniors would get a subsidy to purchase private insurance, and in the instances in which the Republicans' health care coupon doesn't cover enough of the costs, the out-of-pocket burdens for the elderly would be considerable.
In case this weren't quite enough, the Republican Study Committee's budget calls for turning Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act exchange marketplaces into lump-sum block-grants to states, which would in turn be free to scale back the scope of the social-insurance programs.
According to RSC Chairman Jim Banks (R-Ind.), such dramatic cuts would be worthwhile as part of a larger partisan goal of "getting our spending under control and eliminating the deficit" within a few years.
In case any readers are seeing this and feeling some anxiety about their personal wellbeing, it's important to emphasize that the Republican Study Committee's plan will not pass. So long as there's a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill, proposals like these have literally no chance of success.
So why would such a blueprint be important, if it will inevitably fail? For a couple of reasons.
First, a Democratic congressional majority will never allow such regressive ideas to advance, but the Democrats' hold on the reins of power may not last long. Traditionally, the president's party loses quite a few seats two years after a national election, and given the Dems' thin margins in both chambers, the prospect of GOP majorities on the Hill in a couple of years is quite real.
What kind of proposals do Republicans have in mind? As it turns out, they've put some of these ideas in writing.
Which leads us to other reason the RSC budget plan is so important: it's a rare peek into the Republican Party's actual agenda. Remember, just last year, party officials announced that for the first time since 1856, the GOP wouldn't bother to debate, write, or release a platform. Republicans instead announced it would simply "reassert the party's strong support for President Donald Trump and his administration," in lieu of crafting an actual governing vision.
Voters wanting to know what Republicans would do with power were left to simply guess, since the party had no interest in letting the electorate know in advance.
But now, that's different. The Republican Study Committee, representing nearly three-quarters of the House GOP conference, has put its budget plan in writing.
If Democrats are smart, they'll not only bring the RSC plan to the floor for a vote, forcing Republicans to go on the record, yea or nay, on their party's budget blueprint, Democrats will also take full advantage of such of a document ahead of next year's midterm elections.