When Chairman Ryan approaches you, a House Member, and asks for your support for his budget resolution, you might express concern about the amount his budget “cuts” Medicare spending. Mr. Ryan can then show you a plan he has developed that meets his spending targets and assuages your concerns on the details. If you vote for his budget resolution you are not, formally, voting for the particular Medicare or tax reform plan that Mr. Ryan assumed. You are only voting for , the spending and tax levels, that would result from such a plan. And if you don’t like the details of how Mr. Ryan might implement any proposed reform, you have plenty of opportunities to withhold your support for the actual legislation when it is later developed by other committees.
Chairman Ryan has, for example, supported two different versions of long-term Medicare reform. In 2011 he proposed eventually moving all new beneficiaries into a premium support system. In 2012 he teamed up with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to propose a variant in which traditional fee-for-service Medicare would remain as an option for future beneficiaries. The numbers in the Ryan budget plan are consistent with either version of Medicare reform, and support of the Ryan budget plan allows the Congress to negotiate later on which version of reform makes most sense. Or it would, had the Senate Democratic majority done its work and passed a Senate budget resolution instead of punting again this year.
There is therefore nothing “unserious” about specifying only a broad outline for spending or tax reforms as part of a budget resolution. In fact, it’s standard practice for the legislative process.