Rep. Paul Ryan: Budget deal sets framework for future

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Jim Leute
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

JANESVILLE--Rep. Paul Ryan said Wednesday that a bipartisan budget deal is perhaps more significant in how it reached President Barack Obama's desk than what it actually does.

The deal crafted by the Janesville Republican and House Budget Committee chairman with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash, cleared the Senate on Wednesday, nearly a week after passing the House.

“This is not a huge agreement,” Ryan said Wednesday during a meeting with The Gazette's editorial board. “It's nothing close to what we need to balance the budget.

“It is a step—a few steps—in the right direction and gets this divided government working.”

Proponents say the deal keeps Washington from lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis and eases the harshest effects of automatic budget cuts.

When he and Murray first got together, Ryan said, they were far apart on visions and numbers.

Both recognized, however, that another government shutdown was looming in January and possibly again in October.

Ryan: Budget deal required keeping opinions, emotions in check (:47)

They agreed to keep emotions and differences of opinion in check, lay House, Senate and Obama budgets on the table and then find common ground on government waste, corporate welfare and entitlement reform.

“We agreed not to ask each other to violate principles,” Ryan said. “My goal was to not raise taxes and to reduce the deficit.

“This bill sets a precedent that this is how we do things.”

Ryan acknowledged that the bill only reduces the deficit by about $22 billion, but he said it doesn't raise taxes, and it averts crisis-to-crisis government for the time being.

“It was not nearly as much as I would like, but we have to live with that in a divided government,” he said. “… We have a divided government, and we have to work together to make government work at a basic, functioning level.

“I think there's a great desire and need for that only around the country but in Congress, as well.”

Ryan also addressed several other issues:

-- On balancing the budget, Ryan believes it's realistic, but he said the Republicans would need to “win some elections” and take full control in Washington before it's possible. He said a balanced budget is important for more than symbolic reasons because the government is facing debt levels that will skyrocket as baby boomers reach retirement age and use more government services.

“If we don't get ahead of this, we're going to hand an inferior standard of living to the next generation,” he said.

-- On tax reform, Ryan said he would like to chair the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, where he could focus on tax reform that promotes faster economic growth.

“I want to lower the tax rate for everyone across the board,” he said, adding that he would pay for it by increasing the amount of income subject to taxation through the elimination of loopholes.

-- On the Affordable Care Act, Ryan said it's a bad law that doesn't do what proponents said it would.

“It has to be repealed, and I think it's inevitable that it will be, probably in 2017,” he said. “Consumers will see sticker shock and a loss of choice through closed networks.

“… I don't think people will stand for this law, and I think it blows up fiscally.”

-- On his relationship with the tea party, Ryan said “I don't spend my time sweating that stuff.”

He did, however, credit the party with returning a strong sense of fiscal responsibility to the Republican Party.

-- On the status of General Motors in Janesville, Ryan said he doesn't believe the automaker will ever return and the city and county need to develop a plan to get possession of the plant property and aggressively market it.

“I haven't talked with the GM brass in a while, but every time I did they told me to 'proceed with your plans in Janesville,'” he said.

-- On a possible presidential campaign in 2016, Ryan said he hasn't reached a decision.

“It's not my job to worry about some other job,” he said. “I'll get through this session, and I'll think about it.

“I'm back to a normal life in Janesville, and I'm enjoying getting things done. I'll figure that out later.”


MADISON—U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, voted against the budget deal put together in part by Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville.

After last week's House vote, Pocan commended the budget conference committee for reaching a deal, but he said simply reaching a deal doesn't mean Congress has done it's job.

“I am thankful this proposal provides some minor relief over the next two years from the devastating, across-the-board sequester cuts that were set to once again hit critical programs in Wisconsin,” Pocan said in a news release. “Unfortunately, sequestration will continue to do needless harm to our families, our students and our economy in the coming year and for years to come.

“We must continue to work on a solution to replace these harmful cuts once and for all.”

Pocan said the bill abandons 1.3 million Americans who need unemployment insurance and does nothing to promote economic growth or job creation.

Furthermore, he, said, the legislation is paid for on the backs of the middle class and military families while not touching the wealthy and allowing corporations to continue to benefit from tax loopholes.

“Congress shouldn't be patting ourselves on the back just because we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “After a year marked by petty partisanship and tea party obstructionism, we have to do better.

“The challenges of growing our economy and strengthening the middle class are too important to keep kicking down the road.”

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