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House GOP to Propose Budget Balance Within a Decade Sans Medicare Cuts

A pending budget proposal from House Republicans won’t be “significantly different” on Medicare despite the fact that it will balance in 10 years rather than over several decades, according to Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, vice-chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“The number of the changes or the quality of the changes to Medicare will not be significantly different, I don’t believe, than those in our previous budgets,” Price said to a small group of reporters at an event hosted by National Review.

The GOP’s fiscal 2012 budget, which sought to achieve balance over three decades, called for a “premium support” model for those 54 and younger. Under premium support, Medicare would allow a menu of competing plans to offer coverage with government payments.

Moderate Republicans have been privately conveying their anxiety about what additional changes to the premium support plan would be necessary for the budget to balance in 10 years.

Price was pushing back on that idea, saying that even though this new budget will balance in a decade, it won’t require more Medicare cuts.

“We can get to balance for a variety of reasons that don’t require the kind of massive upheaval to current recipients of Medicare, which is not being proposed,” he said.

Medicare and Social Security remain the most politically perilous ground for spending cuts even though many experts cite those programs as those most in need of reform.

Price, who is contemplating running for an open Senate seat in his home state of Georgia, remarked on a broad array of subjects with reporters, including a more-inclusive style from Speaker John A. Boehner’s leadership team.

“I think what the leadership has recognized is that the conference is by and large a conservative conference,” Price said. “And that the kind of decision-making process that we have seen in the past may have been more efficient in the past, but it was not constructive in leading a conference that wants to put these bold visions out there, that wants to provide those contrasts.”

Sometimes considered a Boehner rival, Price praised the speaker, saying, “I think he’s done as well as anyone can do at this point.”

Price recently delayed a decision on whether to run for Senate, something he attributed to the importance of looming fiscal battles in the coming months.

“That issue is not two years down the road, or four years down the road. That issue is now,” Price said. If he decides to run for Senate, he said, “that’s a red letter date, you know, you look back on the calendar and everything else goes away after that date. So, you lose all your focus on everything else, and I don’t think that’s a responsible thing to do right now vis-a-vis the role that I have in the Budget Committee.”

With automatic sequestration cuts set to begin March 1, Price echoed a recent GOP talking point that has sought to hang sequester on the president and Senate Democrats. The only way to blunt the impact, he said, is for Democrats to target the cuts to specific areas of government spending, rather than their current, across-the-board nature.

“When the president and the Democrat-controlled Senate recognize that they need to do their job, then we will move forward in a much more sober manner in spending reductions. It’s not whether the reductions need to occur it’s how they occur,” he said.

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