Paul Ryan outlines his priorities for GOP
By Don Walker, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Monday that the Republican Party needs to show the nation that it has a better set of solutions "for fixing the real anxieties people have in their lives."
"I think we lost the war on poverty. We need to fix it. I think we have a debt crisis coming. We need to be clear about that, and prevent that from happening."
Without providing specifics, the House budget chair said education is a priority for him as well as more job training, especially for middle-age people whose careers have gone off track.
The congressman from Janesville said he will continue to press for tax reform and his own plan for Medicare.
"The reason why this (his Medicare) plan is not dead in the water is because as Obamacare rolls in, and its effects on Medicare are being borne, I believe premium support will compare even more favorably," he said.
Ryan has used the words "premium support" before to describe what his opponents have called vouchers. He has promised that his plan to provide payments that future retirees would use to purchase private insurance would not affect seniors already in the program.
Ryan met Monday with Journal Sentinel editors and reporters.
In recent days, Ryan has been more vocal about encouraging the right to develop a more prudent and constructive opposition to the agenda put forth by President Barack Obama. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said he would make it a national priority to "help make abortion a relic of the past."
Ryan is a co-sponsor of a bill that gives full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization.
Asked if he supports Boehner, Ryan said he will focus on preventing a budget crisis and coming up with a plan to fight poverty. At the same time, he said, the party should not violate its core conservative principles.
"We don't have a 19-point litmus test you have to satisfy before we let you into our party," he said. He added that if a person believes in equality of opportunity, self-determination and free enterprise, "then rally around the tallest pole in this big tent."
Ryan said he was not familiar with the details of Monday's announcement that a bipartisan group of senators has put forward an immigration reform plan, but said he agrees in general with principles backed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Ryan, who said a new immigration plan is doable this year, said he wants better border security, a good employer verification system and what he termed "earned legalization" for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
"How we do that is something you will have to debate and compromise on," Ryan said.
Ryan said the nation continues to have a spending problem that he said is unsustainable.
"Even if President Barack Obama gets all of his tax revenues, it doesn't come close to paying for the spending path we are on," Ryan said. "This is something we have to deal with. Ten thousand people are retiring every day. And the benefits they consume are growing at twice the rate of inflation."
Ryan to propose budget
Ryan said he will present his own budget April 15, at which point he said he will detail what cuts in government spending need to be made. At the same time, the nation needs faster, pro-growth policies that include tax reform, regulatory reform and fiscal discipline, he said.
"The president sees tax reform as a revenue generator. We see tax reform as a growth generator," he said.
On gun violence, Ryan said he is open to closing some loopholes without infringing on people's Second Amendment rights.
"I think we should look into someone not legally allowed to buy a gun going to buy one and let's figure that out," he said. "Let's find out how to close these loopholes without infringing on Second Amendment rights," he said.
Ryan said he is against a ban on assault weapons, saying the old law didn't stop gun violence. Banning high-capacity magazines isn't effective, either, he said.
But Ryan said he wants to have a conversation about the root causes of violence.
"What is wrong with our system when a person who is clearly mentally ill missed all the checks he needed to prevent that from happening?" he said.
With beliefs across the country changing on the topic of same-sex marriage, Ryan said there are reasonable accommodations that could be made that accorded rights and privileges to same-sex couples short of marriage.
Ryan said he is still convinced that the Affordable Care Act will "collapse under its own weight." He said the economy will not be able to sustain the numbers of people who will "be dumped out of their employer plans into exchanges."
Asked when that might happen, Ryan suggested it would be within years.
Ryan dodged questions about his political future, saying he is focused on his job as congressman for the 1st District of Wisconsin.
Asked what he had learned in the general election last year, a race he and Mitt Romney lost, Ryan said: "I learned people are passionate about the ideals of this country, and that is encouraging."