House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., criticized the Republican spending plan for 2012 offered by committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Tuesday and said that Democrats would offer an alternative plan.
Van Hollen implored the American people to view the Ryan plan, believing that as more becomes known about the plan, the less popular it will become. "We ask every American to read the Republican budget. Read the budget. It is a yellow brick road for the already prosperous and a road to ruin for the rest," he said.
The Maryland Democrat was less specific about his party's alternative plan.
Van Hollen did not offer specific details on how the Democratic proposal would deal with the Medicare and Medicaid health care entitlement programs in the future. He insisted that he needed to meet with members of his caucus later this week to present his proposal before making such details public.
The Ryan plan drastically changes both programs. Medicare would move from what is essentially a defined benefit plan to one in which seniors would receive vouchers from the government to help purchase private insurance. It would alter the Medicaid program for the poor by giving block grants to states to allow them to come up with their own financial allocation schemes.
His stance on the revenue side of the ledger was more defined. Van Hollen appeared open to allowing the Bush-era tax cuts, which were extended two more years at the end of 2010, to expire for the highest earners. He said the Republican plan only addresses the nation's fiscal problems through spending cuts, rather than finding additional sources of revenue as well. "At its core the Republican budget is the same tired formula of extending tax breaks to the very wealthy and powerful," he said, "except this time it's on steroids."
In addition to airing his concerns over the Republican's plan for next year, Van Hollen outlined his problems with the spending deal for fiscal year 2011 that Democrats and Republicans reached Friday.
"We'll lose some jobs and weaken the economy as a result of this deal," Van Hollen said, "I fear that the continuing resolution was just a preview of things to come."
The third leg of Capitol Hill's spending stool, a vote to increase the nation's debt limit, or the amount the nation is allowed to borrow, was also a cause for concern for Van Hollen. He said attaching provisions to the vote, as Congressional Republicans have demanded, would undermine the economy. "The House Republicans plan to play a game of political chicken and put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk," Van Hollen said, "that's like playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded revolver."
The United States is on track to max out its credit card as early as next month and will need to approve an increase in order to prevent a possible default on its financial obligations.