WASHINGTON — Republicans in the House of Representatives on Tuesday proposed a plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years, their opening bid in a clash with President Barack Obama over how best to curb soaring budget deficits and eventually stop the debt from climbing.
Their plan would cut or slow spending, repeal spending on the new health care law while keeping some of its spending cuts, and change Medicare substantially.
Democrats rejected the proposal, saying it used "fuzzy math" to balance the books. As they did, Obama started making his own pitch to lawmakers of both parties in the first of three days of visits to Capitol Hill.
Republicans rallied to their budget blueprint, laid out by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee. It was largely a reprise of a plan he proposed last year that became a centerpiece of the party's failed presidential campaign.
"The election didn't go our way. That means we surrender our principles? That means we stop believing in what we believe in? Look, whether the country intended it or not, we have divided government," Ryan said Tuesday.
Ryan's Republican-dominated committee will formally write the legislation today, the day the president is scheduled to meet with House Republicans. Senate Democrats will offer their own plan today, and Obama will formally propose his budget April 8.
Ryan's plan aims to reduce projected deficits by $4.6 trillion over 10 years.
His plan would cut the projected growth in annual spending from 5 percent to 3.4 percent. Though he wants to repeal the health care law, he also proposes to use the $716 billion that the law would cut from Medicare to help reduce the deficit.
Ryan revived his controversial Medicare plan, which would provide federal support so that beginning in 2024, seniors could choose either the government plan or private insurance.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Ryan's budget dead on arrival to the Senate.
Obama was looking beyond the day's partisan drama, seeking the kind of "grand bargain" to bring down deficits that has eluded him for years.
He met with Senate Democrats for 75 minutes, and said little beyond "Hello, everybody" to about 200 reporters as he exited the lunch session. Senators who attended described it as cordial.