The curtain is raised on House Republicans’ version of a fiscal year 2012 spending plan, unveiling the expected stark contrast to President Obama’s proposal. Now, the script plays out toward the October 1 start of the fiscal year. To help you keep track of the cast of key characters, and their roles, here is a program guide.
The Leading Man With a Plan: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who came to Washington from Wisconsin as a Representative in 1998, made his name as a budget wonk since becoming the ranking member of the budget committee. His controversial Road Map To America’s Future, an alternative budget he proposed last year, made headlines and injected some serious policy into a rambunctious GOP effort to take back the House. Now Chairman of the Budget Committee, Ryan promised to lay out an ambitious document that tackles the major drivers of deficits and debt, and in this he has succeeded, arguing that America’s very identity is dependent on adopting his sweeping reforms. But his boldness has a draw-back: Policy experts question the feasibility of some of his specific plans, and Democrats are eager to clash with the GOP over their plans to pass costs on to the elderly and the poor while cutting taxes. Ryan will have to navigate those fights, and his caucus, as Congress grinds through the budget process this year. Whether a grand fiscal bargain is reached or not, Ryan’s proposal will set the tone for 2012 Republican presidential primaries and presents a very real contrast with proposals endorsed by Democrats and President Barack Obama.