By Fred Barbash
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker John Boehner's promise on Wednesday to balance the federal budget "over the next 10 years" was aimed at convincing Tea Party conservatives in Congress to hold their fire over a bill to temporarily raise the U.S. debt ceiling.
But carrying it out would require spending cuts or revenue increases far greater than anything seriously considered by Congress in recent years, including the budget passed by the Republican-controlled House last March, which envisioned shrinking deficits to $3.13 trillion over 10 years in part by a total revamp of Medicare and Medicaid, the government health insurance programs for seniors and the poor.
That budget resolution, drawn up by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, projected a balanced budget not in 10 years, but by 2040.
"It seems politically unrealistic to think you could get to a balanced budget" in a decade, said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan organization devoted to deficit reduction.
That's particularly true, Bixby said, in view of the Republican vow to avoid further tax increases for deficit reduction.
"I don't see it," said Bixby, adding that "it'll be a very useful exercise to see how" Boehner might do it.
Boehner, speaking after the House passed a bill to allow the federal government to borrow more money until May 19, provided no details on how Republicans would keep the promise, leaving Ryan - the Republican 2012 vice presidential nominee - and his budget committee to work it out in the weeks ahead.
The federal budget was last balanced in 2001, thanks in part to a tax increase, low unemployment and a booming economy. Although taxes on the wealthiest Americans have gone up as the result of a fiscal deal reached in early January, unemployment remains stubbornly high and the U.S. economic recovery is tepid. Continued...