Here we go: House GOP vows to tackle entitlements in new budget

Ryan’s hour has come.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement after President Obama’s press conference today:

“The American people are ready to get serious about tackling our fiscal challenges, but President Obama’s budget fails to lead. The President’s budget punts on entitlement reform and actually makes matters worse by spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much – stifling job growth today and threatening our economic future.

“The President says that he wants to win the future, but we can’t win the future by repeating the mistakes of the past or putting off our responsibilities in the present. Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms so that we can have a conversation with the American people about the challenges we face and the need to chart a new path to prosperity. Our reforms will focus both on saving these programs for current and future generations of Americans and on getting our debt under control and our economy growing. By taking critical steps forward now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement. We hope the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will demonstrate leadership and join us in working toward responsible solutions to confront the fiscal and economic challenges before us.”

Stephen Hayes has the lowdown on behind-the-scenes wrangling between Ryan, who wanted to tackle entitlements in the budget and was supported by GOP freshmen, and other members worried about alienating seniors right before a presidential election. Money graf:

Several Republicans said the decision to embrace entitlement reform came for two reasons. First, the problem is too big to be ignored. And, second, the failure of the White House to engage on entitlements in any way, even with the political cover provided by Obama’s deficit commission, created a political opportunity for Republicans to point out a “failure of leadership.” (Expect to hear that phrase a lot in the coming weeks.)

I take it, then, that there really isn’t a “grand bargain” being drawn up. If they’re going to call Obama gutless for not tackling entitlements — which he is — then he can’t very well turn around and make a deal with the GOP on Social Security and Medicare. It’d look like a total cave; his base would go nuts. Better for him to stay away and accuse Republicans during the campaign of wanting to raid granny’s bank account because they hate old people or whatever. Because, see, that’s what a leader who’d ostensibly rather be a great one-term president than a mediocre two-termer would do. He’d duck the biggest issue of his time, then demagogue the hell out of it for electoral gain. That’s what Lincoln would do, no?

In other budget news, it’s apparently quite a revelation that our unsustainable federal government may see a few layoffs before the books are balanced. Alert the media. For your viewing pleasure, here’s Ryan from today’s budget hearing politely inquiring of White House Budget Director Jack Lew whether he occupies the same sphere of reality as the rest of us.