HOUSE|SENATE

112th congress, vote #77; House Concurrent Resolution #34

Ryan Budget Bill 2011

Official Title: Establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2012 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2013 through 2021.

HConRes 34: Ryan budget bill
Rejected by Senate, 40-57, 3 not voting, May 25, 2011

Synopsis: When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) proposed a 2012 budget that sought to drastically limit government spending, Medicare became the center of a dramatic confrontation between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Ryan's goal was to slash government outlays by $5.8 trillion over the next decade.

Ryan's budget called for fundamentally changing Medicare by converting it to a type of voucher system for those currently under 55 years of age. Beginning in 2022, most seniors would no longer receive insurance directly from the government. Instead, Washington would give them vouchers that they could then use to buy private insurance plans.

The voucher would rise in value from year to year, in tandem with annual growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) plus one-half percentage point. Critics of the bill noted that this is well below the rate of growth in health care costs in recent decades.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, seniors would wind up paying much more out of pocket for medical care. The Ryan plan also called for gradually raising Medicare's eligibility age from 65 to 67 for people turning 65 in 2023

In addition, Ryan's budget proposed converting federal funding for Medicaid into block grants to the states. By 2050, federal funding, measured as a share of GDP, would be cut in half.

Finally, while slicing government spending, Ryan's budget made the Bush-era tax cuts for high-income Americans permanent.

Why supporters pushed for this bill

  • Representative Ryan told the New York Times that the Medicare cuts were necessary to keep the program solvent in the future: "We have too many people worried about the next election and not worried about the next generation."
  • Republicans also said that giving future retirees access to private health plans would provide them with more choices.

Why opponents tried to stop the bill

  • On the House floor, Democrats voted unanimously against the bill, arguing that by shifting the risk of rising insurance premiums to seniors, Ryan's proposal would essentially destroy Medicare as we know it.
  • Opponents also rejected the notion that the Ryan budget was brave because it risked alienating seniors, pointing out that while taking money out of Medicare, Ryan's budget would extend George W. Bush's tax cuts for wealthy Americans:
    "It is not courageous to provide additional tax breaks for millionaires while ending the Medicare guarantee for seniors and sticking seniors with the cost of rising health care," said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Budget Committee.

Related vote:

5/25/2011 5:22 PM

Status: Senate motion to proceed rejected 40-57, 3 not voting

More: select a member to see his or her other key health care votes.

Not Voting (3)