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Paul Ryan branches out, looks for new faces of Republican Party

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 22, 2010
— Rep. Paul Ryan is working on a book, a part of his plan to steer his party back to what he sees as Republicans’ universal unifying idea—fiscal conservatism.

Long frustrated with GOP leadership, Ryan has been working with Reps. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on a project called Young Guns.


The Young Guns strategy is to elect other like-minded congressional candidates.


Ryan has a political action committee, Prosperity PAC, which funnels contributions to Young Guns that he, Cantor and McCarthy deem worthy of support.


Prosperity PAC received $166,752 in contributions so far this year and has contributed $154,500 to candidates or other political action committees, according to its July filing with the Federal Election Commission.


Congress members often create such PACs to gather favors in advance of a national campaign, but Ryan repeated past statements, saying he’s not interested.


“No, I’m just trying to get better people in Congress,” he said.


He’s also not interested in being in the House leadership: “I like being home in Janesville on weekends. If you’re in the leadership, you’re flying around the country on the weekends.”


The book, “Young Guns: a New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” is separate from the PAC, Ryan said in a telephone interview from Capitol Hill.


Ryan got permission from the House Ethics Committee to publish the book. It’s due out in September. Proceeds will go to Fisher House, a veterans charity, he said.


Other news reports suggested Ryan was looking to go on a book tour, but he’s not and wouldn’t have time to do it if he wanted to, he said.


Ryan is hoping to be elected to his seventh term Nov. 2.


Ryan’s hoping the Republicans retake the House, of course, but he wants the new Republican faces to be Young Guns.


The Young Guns book will say that the GOP cannot afford to make the mistakes it made in the past, especially wasteful spending and corruption, Ryan said.


Ryan said he’s looking for “sincere reformers” who will stand up to pressure to go along to get along.


“I’ve been here long enough to know that you need people who have strong character and strong principles to survive this system and this town,” Ryan said.


Young Guns might differ on social issues, Ryan said. He has endorsed candidates who are pro-choice on abortion, while Ryan is pro-life.


“The only litmus test is whether they’re going to take on this debt and deficits and entitlement spending when they get here, or are they going to buckle when pressure occurs?” he said.


“We’re just going to agree to disagree on those issues like abortion, and we’ll do so with mutual respect,” he said.


Asked if he might endorse a fiscally conservative Democrat, Ryan responded: “Sure, but I haven’t found one yet.”


The problem with Democrats is that the first thing they’ll do is vote for Nancy Pelosi to continue as House speaker, and Pelosi, as Ryan sees it, has overseen unprecedented growth in spending, exceeding even that under wartime President George W. Bush.


Ryan admits Republicans have been big spenders.


“Under our watch, spending got out of control. Now in the whole scheme of things, we were amateurs compared to the big spenders of today,” he said. But “…spending, earmarks, corruption ... we need to acknowledge that happened.”


Asked whether he regrets not opposing any spending measures during the years Republicans held sway in Congress or the White House, Ryan would not go there. But he did say that a legislator has to learn from the past to do better in the future.


“I fought a lot of this stuff, but obviously not effectively enough,” Ryan said, mentioning his proposals on earmarking and the line-item veto and his opposition to omnibus spending bills.


Bottom line for Ryan is what he believes is a debt crisis that will overwhelm the country if nothing is done to stop it. He sees two choices: Doing something to halt the ever-expanding debt now, or suffering the consequences with tax hikes and a European-style welfare state in the future.


Democrats defend the massive spending as necessary to stimulate the economy, but employers large and small are telling Ryan that they’re loathe to create new jobs because of the economic uncertainty and fear of new taxes, he said.


The Democrats are offering “a sugar high but a debt hangover later, and it does nothing to inspire confidence in that employer to hire somebody,” he said.



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