Ryan: Focus on debt, find common ground on immigration, communicate Republican principles
BY JOE POTENTE, Kenosha News
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan says House Republicans have an obligation to get “at least a down payment” on deficit and debt reduction during President Barack Obama’s second term.
Short of greater reforms, Ryan said it is the GOP’s job as the minority leader in a divided government to “buy time” as Obama’s four-year finale plays out.
Ryan spoke of this and other issues during a wide-ranging interview with Kenosha News editors and reporters on Monday.
The 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee said he had decided to remain quiet between the election and last week’s inauguration, as a courtesy to the president and as he remained curious about how Obama would approach his second term.
A mere week in, Ryan said he believes Obama is looking more for political conquest than compromise.
“I’m not impugning his motives; I think he thinks that’s what’s right,” Ryan said. “I fundamentally disagree, but it’s hard to conclude otherwise just based on what’s been done and said over the last couple of months.”
Time to fix debt ‘crisis’
Ryan, who has returned as chairman of the House Budget Committee, said he believes this spring does present an opportunity to address what he characterizes as a debt crisis.
With automatic sequestration cuts set to hit March 1 and a May 19 deadline for when enforcement of the federal debt limit will begin, Ryan foreshadowed the introduction of another House Republican budget that will stress spending cuts and debt elimination over tax increases.
“You can’t just keep saying, ‘Oh just a little more revenues from a few more people and everything’s fixed,’” Ryan said. “I think that’s what a lot of the rhetoric leads people to believe. That’s just so far from the truth. And the more you delay this problem, the worse it gets.”
The specifics of Ryan’s plan will not be known until after Obama unveils his budget proposal, likely sometime in February.
Ryan made it clear, however, that he will present a clear alternative.
“If we just threw up our hands and said, ‘OK, he owns it all,’ I believe that would hasten the debt crisis,” Ryan said.
Hope for immigration reform
Ryan said he sees immigration reform as the area where there is the best chance of bipartisan compromise.
Speaking as a bipartisan group of senators was announcing a proposed immigration agreement, Ryan said he could not comment on the specifics of that plan, as he had not yet seen it.
But knowing the senators involved, Ryan said he views it as a serious effort, which increases the likelihood of a solution.
“I believe that’s just one of those areas where we’ve always agreed that this needs fixing, but politics has prevented it from getting done,” Ryan said. “And I’m hopeful. A lot of times after big elections, the political blockades go away and you start getting things done. I wish more things would be like that right now, but I think this is really the one that I can think of right now that’s breaking like that.”
Communication a problem
As for the future of his party in national elections, Ryan said he believes the GOP’s principles are sound and its policies are solid.
Communication is more of a problem, Ryan said, citing poverty fighting as an area where he feels Republicans have always had better ideas, but they simply don’t talk about them enough.
“Clearly we have to broaden our appeal,” Ryan said. “And I think that means showing the country that we actually have really good solutions for the problems that they’re experiencing in their daily lives. And we have our work cut out for us on that.”
As for his plans for 2016, Ryan was circumspect about if or when he might decide to mount another national campaign.
“Wisconsinites re-elected me to serve them in Congress,” Ryan said. “I should focus on that, not looking for something else. And down the road, I’ll think about whether to even think about it. I’ve really decided just not to decide, and focus on this.”