Democrats: Republican budget would 'end Medicare as we know it'

Republican Rep. Buck McKeon
Republican Rep. Buck McKeon
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Next year’s budget battle has officially kicked off on Capitol Hill. The first shot: A Republican plan that erases upcoming cuts to defense and increases cuts in domestic spending.

The budget presented by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan saves $18 billion by shrinking the federal workforce by 10 percent and cutting farm subsidies and food stamp spending. At the same time, it gives defense a small boost.

Congressman Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, cites a senior military leader who says he’d never seen a more dangerous time.

"We should be doing what we can to make sure that we’re protected," McKeon says. "That’s our constitutional responsibility, is to [look] out for the common defense of this nation. And that’s what we’re going to do."

But the bump in defense spending violates a bipartisan agreement to make equal cuts to both defense and domestic spending after the so-called "super committee" failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan. That means a fight with Democrats.

Demcorats wasted no time trashing one portion of the proposal: changes to Medicare. Los Angeles Democrat Xavier Becerra is the number two person with the House Democratic Caucus. Becerra says the Republican proposal would “end Medicare as we know it.”

Becerra says it would end the Medicare guarantee and shift the cost of health care to seniors. "Some estimates are that it would cost seniors out of pocket an additional $6,000."

In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll earlier this month, 70 percent of respondents said they want Medicare to remain as is, including more than half of Republicans surveyed.

The House budget has little chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Senate.