GOP plan to boost defense spending worries some in party

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GOP plan to boost defense spending worries some in party
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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 27: Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., chairs the House Budget Committee hearing on 'The Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) Budget and Economic Outlook' on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans Tuesday will propose using tens of billions of dollars in additional war funding to get around tight budget limits on the Pentagon in their new budget plan. The move is designed to placate defense hawks, but is already making tough-on-spending elements in the party uneasy.

The latest plan by Republicans controlling the House also reprises sharp proposed cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor, food stamps and health care subsidies under so-called Obamacare.

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price is releasing the measure Tuesday morning. He's said it will promise balance within 10 years, if not before.

The Georgia Republican's plan borrows heavily from prior GOP budgets, including a plan that would transform Medicare into a voucher-like "premium support" program for seniors joining Medicare in 2024 or later. They would receive a subsidy to purchase health insurance on the private market.

The nonbinding measure sets broad goals for spending and taxes, but it requires follow-up legislation to implement. Republicans have never tried to implement its most controversial cuts and are unlikely to do so as long as Barack Obama is president.

The use of overseas military funds to skirt spending caps on the military, however, is a new feature. War spending is exempt from budget limits and the move would allow Republicans to effectively match Obama's proposal to boost defense spending by $38 billion above current limits. That was a key demand of the party's defense hawks.

Senate Republicans, GOP aides say, are likely to reject the move to radically reshape Medicare and are more reluctant to use war funds to help out the Pentagon.

"It's a gimmick," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.

Price has also signaled he'll replicate Ryan's approach to cutting Medicaid and food stamps by transforming them from federal programs into wholly state-run programs that receive lump sum funding from the government. That approach makes it easier to cut these programs without saying how many people would be dropped or how their benefits would be cut.

To meet their promise to balance the budget within a decade, Republicans would have to cut at least $5 trillion from a federal budget that's on track to total $50 trillion over that period.

The twin GOP budget plans will arrive as top lawmakers such as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are negotiating a $200 billion or so agreement that would permanently fix a flawed funding formula for Medicare physician payments - adding perhaps $140 billion to the deficit over 10 years - while at the same time the budget resolution will claim that the higher reimbursement rates for doctors will be "paid for" with cuts elsewhere in Medicare.

The Medicare "docs' fix" illustrates a truism in Washington: It's easy to vote for spending cuts when they're only hypothetical but excruciatingly hard when they're binding and spark opposition from powerful interest groups like health care providers.

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