U.S. House Republicans rolled out a proposed budget Tuesday that slashes $5.3 trillion from President Obama's spending blueprint and reduces taxes for millions of Americans.
Unveiled by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan surrounded by fellow Republicans, the so-called "Path to Prosperity" proposal amounted to an opening salvo in election-year battles over federal spending, public health insurance and pension programs.
Ryan said the budget -- which stands little chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate -- presents Americans with "a choice of two futures," one burdened by excessive debt, the other an example of fiscal sustainability.
"This plan of action is about putting an end to empty promises from bankrupt government and restoring the fundamental promise of America: ensuring that our children have more opportunity than we do," he told a news conference.
The proposal for fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, calls for $5 billion in spending cuts over 10 years, and would slash the deficit to $797 billion next year, about $180 billion less than under Obama's budget as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.
It also involves collapsing the six existing U.S. tax brackets to two rates: "a 10% bracket and a 25% bracket for individuals, and a 25% bracket for corporations, which is at the international average," he said.
The highest current individual tax bracket is 35%.
Ryan insisted that tax revenue would be made up by closing loopholes and taking away tax shelters for wealthy Americans.
His proposal poses major political risk for Republicans in an election year as it includes reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, the popular but expensive health insurance programs for the elderly and the poor.
It would transform Medicare from a traditional fee-for-service health care system for seniors into a voucher system giving them money to purchase insurance on the private market.
Although it was unclear whether Ryan had the necessary votes to pass it out of the House, Speaker John Boehner predicted "a strong vote of support," The Hill reported.
"We have the votes," the paper quoted Ryan as saying.
Ryan's proposal, following a similar one made last year, provoked a swift outcry from Democrats.
"The House budget fails again in test of balance, fairness and shared responsibility," Obama's communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.
"It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge-fund managers."
Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, chair of the Senate budget Committee, accused Ryan of rehashing the same highly contentious plan as in 2011.
"Rep. Ryan's plan is the same partisan and ideological thinking we saw from House Republicans last year. He proposes large tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations, financed by deep cuts in health care and other programs that help those most in need," Conrad said.
The runaway deficit and the measures to rein it in are major themes during the 2012 presidential campaign, and Ryan said all four candidates aiming to be the Republican nominee "have campaigned on these various ideas."
Frontrunner Mitt Romney issued a statement praising Ryan "for taking a bold step toward putting our nation back on the track to fiscal sanity," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is third in the race behind Romney and religious conservative Rick Santorum, called the budget "courageous."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012