WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, stood Tuesday with members of the House Budget Committee in support of a budget blueprint they claim will balance the federal budget within a decade.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, stood Tuesday with members of the House Budget Committee in support of a budget blueprint they claim will balance the federal budget within a decade.


Westerman, a freshman member of the committee, said the committee document would save $5.5 trillion over the decade with much of those savings coming from repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.


"The overriding cost savings comes from repeal of Obamacare. I think that is something that people in Arkansas are definitely in favor of," he said.


Westerman cautioned, however, that repealing the Affordable Care Act will be a struggle, even though Republicans hold a majority now in the House and Senate.


"It will be an uphill battle to achieve that, but at least we can lay the blueprint out for Congress to enact the policy and appropriations to make that happen," he said.


Members of the House Budget Committee unveiled the document Tuesday at a Capitol news conference. Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., expects the House will approve it next week despite disagreements within the GOP over some of the details — particularly defense spending.


The committee’s plan would cap defense spending at $523 billion for the next fiscal year but includes $36 billion more for the global war on terror — a pot of money that is not subject to sequestration. Defense spending would gradually rise over the decade by $387 billion.


The defense funding would fall far short of what Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., advocated Monday in his maiden address from the Senate floor.


"It has been a topic of debate in committee meetings, but I think this is a good compromise," Westerman said. "I’m sure there will be more discussion."


As to his own budget battles, Westerman said he would fight hardest to retain a foreseen expansion of work requirements in federal assistance programs for a potential savings of $600 billion over 10 years.


Westerman has introduced legislation that would require able-bodied working age adults to fulfill a work requirement to participate in the Medicaid expansion program. That idea was expanded in the budget document to apply to all federal income assistance programs.


"That is an opportunity to do huge savings but also is the best way to reform those programs so they meet their intended purpose of giving people a hand up instead of a permanent hand out," he said.


Westerman said that another important proposal is to reform Medicaid so that states have the flexibility to design their own programs rather than fill dictates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


"That would be a huge one, where we shifted back to the states and give states the flexibility to develop the program they want to see versus what CMS would dictate to them," he said.


As a state lawmaker, Westerman said he was frustrated by federal requirements attached to Arkansas’ "private option" plan to expand Medicaid services under the Affordable Care Act. So called "wraparound services" that are covered by Medicaid but not by most private insurance providers meant higher premiums for those participating in the state program, he said.


The budget blueprint unveiled Tuesday, he said, would allow states to "truly design their own program to be more efficient and meet the needs of the people in their states."


Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, issued a statement in support of the budget plan.


"We cannot solve our financial crisis by cutting discretionary spending alone. This House budget recognizes that and takes the important and necessary steps to get America back on track and ensure that we are spending responsibly, purposefully, and within our means," he said.


In balancing the budget, Price conceded that it relies on tax cuts to boost economic growth beyond levels projected by the independent Congressional Budget Office. CBO expects the economy to grow 2.3 percent annually over the decade while historically it has grown 3.3 percent, Price said. The 1 percentage point difference, he said, amounts to $3 trillion in lost tax revenues to the federal government.


"We believe in the American people," he said. "We believe in the vitality of their enthusiasm and the vitality of an economy if you let it loose, if you let it go. And that’s what we embrace in this budget."