U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said Monday that she supports the ideas behind a GOP budget plan to slash $5.8 trillion in spending over the next decade, but the potential Republican presidential contender stopped short of endorsing the proposal.
The plan from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would cut spending in part by making significant changes to Medicare and Medicaid. When asked about the proposal, Bachmann told The Associated Press that she supported the plan "in principle, yes."
"The aspirational goal of making Medicare and Medicaid sound and secure, yes, I support that," said Bachmann, a favorite among Tea Party activists.
The Minnesota congresswoman, who was in Iowa for speeches organized by a conservative group, noted that she hadn't read the entire proposal. Bachmann said she was preoccupied last week with the outcome of talks between Congress and President Obama on cuts to the current budget.
Although many Republicans weighing 2012 presidential bids have praised Ryan for addressing entitlements in his budget blueprint, few have commented specifically on his plans for the politically sensitive programs for the elderly and poor.
Ryan's proposal for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 would convert Medicare, the health insurance program for older people, into a subsidy or voucher system for people under age 55. It also would make Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor and disabled, a state-run program financed by federal block grants. The plan was unveiled last week.
Bachmann, one of only two U.S. House members actively weighing a presidential campaign, said she supports in theory providing a Medicare subsidy for Americans under age 55, while assuring older people their guaranteed benefits will not change. However, she wouldn't say whether she supported all the proposal's specifics.
"It's an aspirational document. It's not a piece of legislation," she said.
Other Republicans eyeing the White House have taken similar stances, praising Ryan without specifically endorsing his plan's provisions -- with the exception of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. He endorsed the Medicaid and Medicare pieces, and, in a statement, called the Medicare plan "right on target."
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also considering a 2012 bid, praised Ryan's Medicaid proposal during a phone interview Monday with the AP, saying he believed "block grants to the states is the only plausible strategy for Medicaid. ... Nobody believes you're going to come up with a national solution." He said he differed with Ryan on details of his Medicare proposal but declined to elaborate.
Support also has come from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has said the national debt is the country's most glaring domestic problem. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who praised Ryan for drawing attention to the issue of government spending, said he supports the idea of giving states grants to run Medicaid. Daniels and Barbour also are considering seeking the GOP nomination.
During her visit to Iowa, Bachmann also said she planned to vote against the budget-cutting measure agreed to last week by congressional leaders and Obama, in large part because it did not remove money to finance the federal health care law enacted last year.
"I was very disappointed with the bill that came through. And that's an understatement," Bachmann said during a speech at Pella Christian High School, one of her stops during her swing through Iowa. "Voters expected us to defund Obama-care."
Bachmann has said she plans to announce whether she will run for president by June, though she has already begun lining up key supporters and staff in Iowa. The state's precinct caucuses are expected to begin the GOP nominating sequence next year.
She was in Pella and Iowa City on Monday to speak at events organized by The Family Leader, a group that has attracted a string of potential Republican presidential candidates. She planned to meet with Republican officials on Tuesday in Des Moines.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)