Ryan doubts Medicare deal with Biden
Politico | By Richard E. Cohen
House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan reiterated today that House Republicans will insist on both immediate spending cuts and longer-term spending caps as core parts of a measure to increase the federal debt ceiling.
And debunking an overnight news story that House Republicans are walking away from the sweeping Medicare changes in the budget that they passed last month, Ryan said that Majority Leader Eric Cantor agrees that “Our starting point is the budget passed by the House,” including entitlement reforms. He added that a serious proposal must address soaring health-care costs, which he called “the primary driver of our debt problems.”
Still, Ryan said Republicans are aware that their starting point is unlikely to make it into a final deal. “We are under no illusion that we’re going to get everything we’ve always wanted in this one bill, but let’s get a good down payment,” he said.
Implying that the House will insist on its plan to restore discretionary spending to Fiscal 2008 levels, Ryan said that caps alone are not sufficient. “Actual spending cuts are important.” And he repeated that tax increases are off the table because they would slow economic growth. That included any budget mechanism for an automatic tax increase, he added.
In a scene-setter to today’s launch of bipartisan talks on the debt ceiling, Ryan continued to take a hard line on the need for sweeping Medicare reforms. But he conceded that such a step is unlikely to gain much Democratic support, and that the debate ultimately will be resolved in the 2012 election.
Based on conversations with House colleagues about their experiences at home during the two-week recess, he added, “They came back energized….The people are ahead of the politicians.” Dismissing the prospect that the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of six” will craft a solution, he said that a deal must be “transparent” and every citizen must be involved.
Although he said that the current debt-limit debate ultimately must be resolved in a congressional agreement on budget steps, Ryan did not specifically address the timetable for action or prospects for Vice President Joe Biden’s bipartisan commission, which began discussions this morning. He said that he accepted Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s August 2 deadline for final action.
Speaking to a breakfast forum sponsored by the pro-business American Council for Capital Formation, Ryan was well-received in his call for sweeping tax reform that would end the practice of government “picking winners and losers.” He criticized President Obama as “extremely vague” in his call for corporate tax reform, aside from his general call for tax increases. “He doesn’t really have a plan,” Ryan said. “We don’t want to negotiate with ourselves.”