Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will have a lot of work to do in Iowa, should he seek the 2016 presidential nomination, based on the range of sour reactions to his just-passed House budget proposal.
The Wisconsin representative and former vice presidential nominee will make a pitch for the plan Friday at an annual spring fundraising event for the Republican Party in Iowa. Hundreds of party faithful are expected at the Lincoln Day dinner in Cedar Rapids, which often draws figures considering a run in Iowa's leadoff nominating caucuses.
While many GOP officials in the state where a Ryan presidential campaign would likely start, including Gov. Terry Branstad, praise Ryan's effort, they also say it's far from perfect.
Ryan authored the mostly symbolic measure that passed Thursday. It promises a balanced federal ledger in 10 years through sweeping cuts in social spending, including major changes to the health care law.
The plan, which also calls for steps toward private market solutions, could be a sort of political credo for Ryan, should he seek the presidency.
Although Friday is Ryan's second trip to Iowa since the 2012 election, the looming retirement of Michigan Rep. David Camp means Ryan, chairman of the budget committee, would be in line to head the more powerful ways and means committee, which could factor into his decision-making.
In Iowa, securing Branstad's approval, should the five-term Republican governor win another term in November, would be a valuable campaign asset. But Branstad often says he prefers backing governors.
"I certainly do not endorse all the details in that budget. But I do give him credit for at least trying to do something," Branstad told The Associated Press this week. "I obviously am concerned about those things that would have a negative impact on our state or on our state budget."
Under the plan passed narrowly in the GOP-controlled House, Congress would repeal the Medicaid component of the 2010 health care bill. Last year, Branstad, like several GOP governors, agreed to expand and modify the state-administered health care plan for poor people, with the understanding that the federal government would provide financing for the expansion for three years before gradually decreasing the portion to 90 percent.
"We are offering a balanced budget that pays down the debt," Ryan said in his remarks before the vote Thursday.
While Branstad's complaint suggests Ryan's plan would cut too deep, several other Iowa GOP leaders and candidates say it would not go far enough.
"Conservatives certainly don't like it," said Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler.
Ten years is too long, said U.S. House candidate Matt Schultz, Iowa's secretary of state.
"We've got to start making serious decisions now," said Schultz. "A budget that says, '10 years from now,' is not good enough."
But the six-way GOP field for the June 3 primary Schultz is running in is divided on the measure, according to interviews with other 3rd District candidates.
"It moves the ball down the field," David Young, a former senior aide to Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, said of Ryan's plan. "And that's a good thing."
The GOP plan would cut more than $5 trillion over the coming decade. It would rely on sharp cuts to domestic programs, but leave Social Security untouched and shift more money to the Pentagon and health care for veterans. The cuts would come at the expense of poor people and seniors on Medicaid, lower-income workers receiving the health care law's subsidies, and people receiving food stamps or Pell Grants.
But it would allow increased total spending next year, the ultimate problem for conservatives, said former state GOP executive director Chuck Laudner.
"It's the same trap, even if the numbers add up," Laudner said. "People can't get past that opening paragraph: We're going to spend more."
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