Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) released a budget proposal yesterday afternoon that would lower federal spending to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product and reduce federal debt to 52 percent of GDP by 2021. The proposal, however, does not significantly reform Medicare, handing a rebuke to Republican efforts in the House to privatize the program.
At a press conference unveiling the document, Toomey insisted that he would vote for the House budget — offered by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — if it came to the Senate floor, but said that his proposal focused on balancing the budget over the short-term. “The focus of this budget is to demonstrate that we can reach a balance in 10 years, in part to buy us the time for the structural reforms that these other programs will need,” he said.
Still, Toomey may be doing more to Medicare than he lets on. Republicans have stressed that the proposal would not cut the program — in fact it would increase funding thanks to a provision that would address the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). But as The Hill’s Julian Pecquet has written, this would mean that the $500 billion in cuts from the Affordable Care Act would remain in place. The GOP has repeatedly condemned these cuts throughout the health care reform debate, despite voting for them as part of Paul Ryan’s budget. During the 2010 election, Toomey even ran ads against Democratic challenger Joe Sestak for supporting reductions to the Medicare program. A press release accompanying the ad included the following facts about Sestak’s record:
— The health care bill includes $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade [CBSNews.com, 3/21/10]
— The health care bill will “slice an additional $60 billion from Medicare, with the privately run program known as Medicare Advantage targeted for particularly deep cuts, bringing the total reduction in projected spending on the program to more than $500 billion over the next decade” [Washington Post, 3/19/10]
Watch the ad:
Toomey has been a long time supporter of entitlement reform — i.e. making cuts to the Medicare program — and has accused President Obama of failing to lead on the issue. “To make matters worse, the president’s budget increases taxes and completely ignores the drivers of the country’s deficit problem—the entitlement programs. As we approach the statutory federal debt limit, it’s unfortunate that the president wants Congress to increase it without any budget reforms,” Toomey said.