Updated 5:32 p.m. Eastern Time
Republican budget architect Rep. Paul Ryan today characterizedthis way: "This is not a budget, this is a cause."
And that cause, he suggested, is to grow the economy by reducing the size and scope of the federal government. Ryan's proposal, called "The Path to Prosperity," says the plan starts "not be asking what is the 'right mix' of tax increases and spending cuts to balance the budget, but by asking what is the purpose of government, and then raising only as much revenue as the federal government needs to efficiently fund those missions that rightly belong in its domain, while maximizing economic growth and job creation."
Budgets are statements of both policy and politics, and the Republican budget is no exception. So how have members of the GOP responded? By applauding Ryan for just making that statement and to address the looming federal debt -- while not necessarily addressing the specifics of his policy proposals, which include politically-perilous entitlement reform.
The only freshman Republican in House leadership, Rep. Kristi Noem, had this to say: "You don't have to agree with every detail to acknowledge Rep. Paul Ryan is the only leader who's laid out a realistic budget plan."
The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, took the same tack.
"From the Republican House we have seen the most serious effort put forward in our time to solve our long-term fiscal challenges. I applaud Chairman Ryan and his Committee. The contrast between this plan, and the failure of the Democrats who run the Senate and White House, is extraordinary," he wrote. "The only way to get this country off the road to economic crisis and on the road to economic prosperity is to curb spending and get this government under control."
While praising Ryan for taking a bold step, Sessions' statement did not offer comment about the specifics of the proposal.
Among the potential Republican presidential contenders, Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was out with an early response. "Thanks to Paul Ryan in Congress, the American people finally have someone offering real leadership in Washington," he wrote. But he too failed to take a stand on the specific proposals offered by Ryan.
So did likely candidate Mitt Romney, who said in a statement: "I applaud Rep. Paul Ryan for recognizing the looming financial crisis that faces our nation and for the creative and bold thinking that he brings to the debate. He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page."
And there was this from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is also considering entering the race: "The House budget resolution is the first serious proposal produced byeither party to deal with the overriding issue of our time...Anyone criticizing this plan without offering a specific and equally bold program of his own has failed in the public duty to be honest and clear with Americans about the gravest danger we are facing together."
Some immediate opposition came from governors, who are opposed to the idea of turning Medicaid into a block grant program. Under the plan the federal government would give money to the states to cover the medical costs of the poor; Medicaid is currently a joint federal-state run program.
"As Governors managing budgets in a difficult fiscal environment, we have pursued strategies to reduce Medicaid costs while still preserving the integrity of the program," wrote 17 Democratic governors. "We are concerned that Congress, in an attempt to reduce the federal deficit, may pursue the exact opposition course of action by creating a mandated block grant which would do little to address cost growth while shifting costs to states and threatening program integrity."
David Walker, a longtime budget expert who's warned of increased spending and the skyrocketing costs of Medicare and Medicaid for years, also applauded Ryan for taking the first step.
"Chairman Ryan should be commended for having the courage to lead in connection with our nation's huge deficit and debt challenges," he said. "His budget proposal recognizes that restoring fiscal sustainability will require tough transformational changes in many areas, including spending programs and tax policies."
But Walker cautions that Ryan's plan can't solve the nation's problems effectively without raising taxes where necessary.
"Contrary to Chairman Ryan's proposal, additional defense cuts that do not compromise national security and comprehensive tax reform that raises more revenue also need to be on the table in order to help ensure bipartisan support for any comprehensive fiscal reform proposal," wrote Walker, who is the president of the Comeback America Initiative, an organization promoting fiscal sustainability.
"Our current fiscal policy and path is both irresponsible and morally reprehensible," added Walker. "At the same time, the manner in which we address this challenge also raises key moral questions. Our political leaders from both parties need to be at the table with everything on the table in order to achieve sustainable success."