Interview with Representative Paul Ryan

Interview with Representative Paul Ryan

By John King, USA - January 18, 2011

KING: For most of the afternoon the House of Representatives debated the Republican proposal to repeal the Democratic health care reform law. The final vote is tomorrow and we already know the outcome. Repeal will pass the House and then go nowhere.

Here's how you feel about it: 50 percent of Americans want to repeal all provisions of the new health care law. But there's a huge generational divide; 57 percent of Americans 50 and over favor repeal, while 45 percent under 50 favor repeal.

One of the key Republicans in this fight and just about every big fight on Capitol Hill these days is the Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin.


KING: Mr. Chairman, let me ask this question. As we all wait to see how this divided government works, I completely understand and respect why House Republicans say we will vote to repeal the health care bill. You campaigned on it, it was a central promise, but you can't do it. You can't get it through the Senate. The president has a veto pen, even if you could. What is round two? Will it just a continued political confrontation, or will there be, OK, we can't get our way, let's have serious conversations with Democrats about some with incremental changes.

REP. PAUL RYAN, CHAIRMAN, BUDGET CMTE.: Well, if we use that standard to measure what we do on the House floor, whether we can pass it out of the House, out of the Senate and the presidency, they we ought to just go home. We do believe it's incumbent upon us to define ourselves with our actions. And that is why, like you said, this was a campaign pledge. We're fulfilling that pledge. And really do believe this law should be repealed. So going forward with respect to fiscal policy, I would argue health care policy is the biggest driver of our debt and deficits. I just have a hard time seeing that we're going to come together on health care policy.

It's because the architecture of the president's new health care law is so disastrous from our policy perspective. It's so wrong that I have a hard time seeing how we would agree to tinker around the margins. We really do believe this health care system should be replaced with a patient-centered health care system. We believe you can have universal access to affordable health insurance, including for people with pre-existing conditions, without this kind of law takeover, and without a huge government-run program, without all these tax increases and Medicare cuts.

Hopefully we can get something on other areas of fiscal policy. Hopefully on discretionary spending, other entitlements, we can get some reform. My hope and goal is we can find some agreement with the president on some things that to get us in the right direction, to get this debt under control. But his health care law, my guess is he's not going to agree us, and we're not going to agree with him on that, and that one might just go to the next election.

KING: All right. Let's get to those other issues in a second. You say health care might go to the next election. What about between now and then? Will you vote over and over again to repeal? Or is it possible we'll get gridlock on the budget process because a number of your colleagues said let's defund it. Let's deny the funding for what the administration needs to implement the healthcare law. If the house doesn't put it in its budget, and the Senate does, then you have gridlock. You either give in or what, we don't have a budget, we shut down the government?

RYAN: Well, so, budget is different than shutting down government. These are different things. Shutting down government in your language is discretionary spending. And that means do we put riders in appropriation bills to defund aspects of this Obama care? And that those don't get signed into law. Then we'll see what happens. I can't answer what the budget showdown will be on discretionary spending.

But on the budget, which is the budget resolution, we will be advocating for repeal of this health care law. What I'm trying to say is hopefully there are other aspects of fiscal reform, maybe in the area of Medicaid reform, maybe in the area of Social Security and hopefully maybe in the area of cutting discretionary spending. I would like to think we can get some agreement in those areas to make a dent in our problem, even though we have such a difference of opinion on whether this new health care law should stand or not.

KING: Answer the critics, saying you're trying to change the referee in the middle of the game. Or saying you won't listen to the referee, in the middle of the game.

RYAN: Yeah, the CBO.

KING: Yes, CBO. You-


KING: Sir, you got an award just the other day, you said, you are doing a great job at CBO.

RYAN: And they are.

KING: I understand you disagree with the Democratic bill, you disagree with their assumptions, but the CBO says the bill you're about to vote on to repeal the health care law, would add $230 billion to the deficit. They're the referees. There are a lot of calls we don't like, we are both sports fans.

RYAN: Right.

KING: But they are the referees today. How can you say, never mind?

RYAN: So our quarrel is not with the CBO at all, or with their methodology. I differences of opinion on their methodology, but our quarrel is not with CBO themselves, our quarrel is with the Democrats who wrote the bill that the CBO had to score. Here is how the CBO works. You put in front of them whatever you want to put in front of them, and they have to score it. So, what do they put in front of them? They put in front of them a bill that double counts Medicare money, that double counts Social Security money, that double counts class act money, that omits discretionary spending, that omits the doc fix.

If you take away the double counting, all the money they didn't count. It is about a $700 billion deficit. The reason I say, $700 billion deficit is we asked CBO to look at this bill without all the gimmicks, without all the smoke and mirrors. And that was their conclusion.

Let me say it this way, CBO, when they look at the debt, they can look at everything, not just this narrow piece of legislation. They say this health care bill increases the debt. So how can it be that this legislation reduces the deficit but increases the debt? The reason is because in this bill which is scored, which gives you that score that you just mentioned, they have all this double counting, all these smoke in mirrors. That's not CBO's problem. That's the problem of the people who manipulated CBO by putting all these budget gimmicks into the legislation that they have scored.

KING: I suspect Democrats will be saying the same thing about you in the near future. But let's move on to another issue. You're making a lot of new friends. You have 63 new seats, the House Republicans picked up in the last election. Many of those new members are Tea Party members, who is say, no way, sir. We will not vote to give the government more lending authority, to raise the debt ceiling unless they see a serious and significant package of spending cuts attached to that legislation.

RYAN: I agree with that.

KING: How much money are we talking about?

RYAN: I'm not interested in negotiating through the media. I don't think that's good strategy. But we didn't ask the American people to give us the majority to be rubber stamps for big government. We do have to get this thing turned around. Yes, I think this is an opportunity to get serious spending cuts and controls in place in order to prevent default--

KING: How much are we talking about?

RYAN: I'm not going to get into that because I don't think it's smart to negotiate through the media. But we want something significant because this debt situation is really getting out of control. And we're not interested in rubber stamping all the spending that's taken place over the last two years. We want to get this thing turned around in the right direction.

KING: I hope we spend a lot of time in the weeks and months to come, deep in the leaves (ph) of the budget. And I mean that, going through specific programs -

RYAN: I'd love to.

KING: How this is going to affect. But I want to close today by asking this question: You won't give me the number of spending cuts you want to attached to raising the debt ceiling. What about, has the climate changed at all? You said you hope to agree with the president on many of these things. As we know you didn't have any conversations with the president the first two years. Are you already in contact with the administration? Are you trying to work some of these things out? Or are we going to do this the old-fashioned way? Republicans have a proposal, you have your vote, the Senate Democrats have a proposal, they have their votes and it takes months and months to get to what we know is going to have in the end, you will have to get in the room, with the president, with the Democrats on the Senate side, and cut some sort of deal?

RYAN: The people I knew in the administration, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Rahm Emanuel, they're gone. There's new people from the fiscal standpoint. I'm just beginning to get to know them. I did reach out to Jack Lew, the new OMB director. We have gotten to know each other a little bit. Gene Sperling was kind enough to call me to talk. And I'm getting to know Tim Geithner a little bit. So we are having those preliminary conversations. Nothing but good things come out of those from my perspective.

So, yes, look, I don't want to do nothing for the next two years. I hope what is going to happen is the president is going to say, I agree with you Republicans on A, B and C, let's get those things done. But an X, Y and Z, and his healthcare bill is probably one of them, we'll have to agree to disagree. And that's fine. That is just how it is going to go. But I do believe for the sake of our country, for the sake of our debt situation, that we're going to make some good dents on spending. Spending, after all, is the source of our problem, we have to get started on it.

KING: Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, one of the most powerful figures in Washington at the moment. I hope you have those grown-up conversations as you just described. And we'll keep in touch as we go forward.

RYAN: Thanks, John. Nice to be with you.

KING: Mr. Chairman, thank you.


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John King, USA

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