WASHINGTON — Inside room 210 of the Cannon House Office Building, the House Budget Committee met to discuss Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, including his ideas to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid and slash spending almost across the board.
Outside room 210 stood a handful of Democratic lawmakers, including Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, trying to change the conversation. Unlike Ryan’s plan, which was breathlessly covered Tuesday by seemingly every correspondent in Washington and garnered front-page headlines across the nation, the progressive alternative was covered by just five TV crews and a dozen more journalists in an alcove. More media members were outside the Capitol an hour later to hear Michele Bachmann speak to a Tea Party crowd, despite the fact that she’d done the exact same thing last week.
“We are in the midst of a generational debate, a generational fight, and what we do here will determine the course of America in significant and profound ways,” Ellison said.
“I’m from Minnesota, and in Minnesota we used to have a senator who said that the moral test of the nation is how it treats people in the twilight of their life, the seniors; the dawn of their life, the children; and in the shadows of their life, which is the poor and the oppressed,” Ellison said, loosely quoting. “By that definition that Hubert H. Humphrey gave us many years ago, the Ryan Roadmap to Ruin fails utterly, and we need another way.”
Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva of Arizona said the Progressive Caucus would fully unveil their plan Thursday, but he provided several details of what the plan would do:
- Include a public health insurance option. A public option passed the Democrat-controlled House last session and had majority support in the Senate too, but stalled there for lack of 60 votes to beat back a filibuster attempt;
- Removes U.S. forces from Afghanistan and ends U.S. involvement in the NATO Libya campaign;
- Cuts subsidies for oil companies; and most affecting to the deficit,
- Ends the Bush tax cuts and restores tax levels to those under President Clinton.
The plan has not yet been scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, but CPC members said the plan would erase more than 60 percent of the annual federal deficit by 2014.
Like Ryan’s plan, this one has very little if any chance of being implemented wholesale. Instead, Ellison and Grijalva said, this was about laying down a marker of priorities on the left to stand as a counter in the debate of ideas over where the nation needs to go.
“This debate needs to focus on what America needs to be competitive, and to be a just fair nation that looks after all its citizens,” Ellison said.
More: Our earlier report on details of the Ryan budget plan is here.