Boehner Distances Republicans From Ryan Budget…But He Can’t Name A Single Objection

February 4, 2010 8:36 a.m.
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House Republicans are at pains to point out that a far-reaching budget roadmap unveiled by their top budget guy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), isn’t their budget, but when asked today at a press conference what about Ryan’s budget he disagreed with, Minority Leader John Boehner couldn’t name anything.

“Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you,” Boehner said.

Despite the apparent lack of substantive disagreement, though, Boehner wants to keep the Ryan plan from sticking to the GOP.

“Paul Ryan, who’s the ranking member on our budget committee, has done an awful lot of work in putting together his roadmap,” Boehner said. “But it’s his. And I know the Democrats are trying to say that it’s the Republican leadership. But they know that’s not the case.”Ryan’s detailed long-term budget roadmap has awakened Democrats, who are beginning to make political hay of his proposal’s call for privatizing and slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits. It’s a tough spot the Republicans have been trying to avoid. On the one hand, touting that they have a deficit reduction plan better than President Obama’s. On the other hand, being careful not to hitch themselves to a plan full of politically unpopular cuts in the middle of an election year.

Earlier, in a brief interview, Ryan told TPMDC that though his proposal is his and his alone–and that it’s a different beast from the Republicans annual alternative budget–Republican leaders have been very supportive of his efforts.

“There is never a good time politically to put something like this out there,” Ryan said.

“The [annual] budget is more of a nuts and bolts 10-year document that’s a consensus document,” Ryan told me. “I just wrote this bill on my own, so it’s not a consensus thing. It’s my fiscal plan.”

So GOP leadership has been supportive of your proposal?

“Absolutely,” Ryan insisted. “If you look at the budget I put out last year, it had similarities. The whole idea was to get a grip on spending, keep taxes low, and get our fiscal trajectory going in the right direction.”

There are major differences between the Republicans 2009 alternative budget and the legislation Ryan unveiled recently. Thus, he says, “when you get to the details, that’s where good, honest people have differences of opinion.”

Those differences will manifest themselves in the actual Republican budget proposal–an alternatives to the plan the White House unveiled earlier this week–which will be reflective of the GOP consensus. If the House GOP’s official budget from last year is any indication, this year’s version will be short on details in the hopes of avoiding the politically uncomfortable questions that go with making tough fiscal choices.

That budget won’t be seen for at least a month. A GOP budget aide detailed for us the lengthy process. First, Republicans wait for the president’s budget to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which takes about six weeks. Then they craft an alternative, which won’t get a hearing or markup in committee. Instead, they can offer it on the House floor when the Democrats put their own budget up for the vote.

The general timeline for that is sometime in late March or early April.

The aide told us, “The Republican budget has to be reflective of the Republican conference obviously and it will be distinct from Ryan’s roadmap. That was Ryan’s plan.”

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