Paul Ryan on Immigration, Sequester, and the Budget
This Week, ABC News
Jon Karl: And now, in a This Week exclusive, Congressman Paul Ryan joins us from Janesville, Wisconsin. Congressman Ryan thanks for coming to the show.
Congressman Paul Ryan: Good morning Jonathan.
Jon Karl: I want to get right to this dust up over immigration and Marco Rubio’s comments. Just last week, you said the President deserved credit for not politicizing the immigration issue, you thought this was a good sign. Do you still believe that?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Actually I don’t, and I really don’t enjoy saying this. I did think his words were measured and productive in the State of the Union but leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction. Look, the question that we always have to ask ourselves, particularly with this White House, is the President looking for a partisan advantage or is he looking for a bipartisan law? And by putting these details out without a guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantages to those who cut in front of line of immigrants who came here legally, not dealing with border security adequately, that tells us he’s looking for a partisan advantage, and not a bipartisan solution. There are groups in the House and the Senate working together to get this done and when he does things like this, it makes it much more difficult to do that. That’s why I think this particular move is very counterproductive.
Jon Karl: Let’s just be clear, you have said you would support an immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship correct?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Yes, absolutely because we think there is a way to do this through earned legalization without rewarding people who have come in with undocumented status, illegally. We don’t want to give them an advantage over those who came here legally and we think that there’s a way to do this while still respecting the rule of law. It’s clear that what the President is talking about does not do that. I have a long record of immigration reform; I’m not a Johnny-come-lately on this issue. We’ve always believed there’s a way to do this while respecting the rule of law and that’s the delicate balance that needs to be achieved for this to be bipartisan. And the President, on most of these issues, and this one now like the others, seems to be looking for a partisan advantage and not bringing the parties together.
Jon Karl: Let’s get to the biggest other issue right now which is these automatic spending cuts. You’ve been pretty clear, you’ve predicted now for some time, you think the so called sequester is going to happen. Let me ask you this, Congress is now on recess for ten days, the President is playing golf in Florida this weekend, is there really any effort underway to try and avert these cuts right now? Are you even trying?
Congressman Paul Ryan: There have been from House Republicans. Let’s take a step back. Don’t forget, it’s the President who proposed the sequester, it’s the President who designed the sequester. It’s the House Republicans who twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with smarter cuts in other areas of government. The Senate hasn’t passed a bill to replace the sequester. The President gave a speech showing that he’d like to replace it but he hasn’t but any details out there, so that is why I conclude that I believe that it’s to place. Take a step back, we’re here because the President, back in the last session of Congress, refused to cut spending in any place and therefore, we wound up with the sequester.
Jon Karl: But Congressman, I’ve heard you say this. This has been a talking point for Republicans for a long time - that it was the President’s idea, on and on and on. But let’s look at your own words; what you said right after the law putting this in place was passed, exactly what you said, these are your words. You said: “What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money. And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending and you can’t turn that off without a supermajority vote. We got that in law. That is here.” Now it sounds to me, there that if you weren’t taking credit for the idea of the sequester, you were certainly suggesting it was a good idea? (Fox News August 1, 2011)
Congressman Paul Ryan: Those are the budget caps on discretionary spending, those occurred. We want those. Everybody wants budget caps. The sequester that we’re talking about now was backing up the Super Committee. Remember, the Super Committee, in addition to those caps, was supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings and the Republicans on the Super Committee offered even higher revenues in exchange for spending cuts as part of that, It was rejected by the President and the Democrats so no resolution occurred and so therefore, the sequester is occurring. What we’ve always said is let’s cut spending in smarter ways to replace the sequester. We passed two bills doing that and we’ve heard nothing in response from Senate Democrats or the President. They haven’t passed anything. The point I’m trying to say, when you have no budget passing the Senate for four years, when the President is going to be late proposing his budget, there’s no leadership on the other side of the aisle and therefore no agreement.
Jon Karl: First of all, House Republicans have not acted in this Congress. What you did in the last Congress, those bills are dead.
Congressman Paul Ryan: In December we passed it again, that’s right.
Jon Karl: Now we have Senate Democrats on Friday coming out with a plan to replace these cuts, it’s half spending cuts and half tax revenue increases. What do you make of that Democratic plan?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Well, first of all, I’d be curious to see if they could pass that, number one. Number two, the President got his tax increases last year. He got those higher revenues. He was able to tax higher income individuals. But taking tax loopholes, which we’ve always advocated are necessary for tax reform, means you’re going to close loopholes to fuel more spending, not to reform the tax code. What is the goal we’re trying to achieve here? We want economic growth, we want job creation, we want people to get back to work, we want to prevent a debt crisis from hurting those who are most vulnerable in society, and from giving us a European like economy. In order to do that, you’ve got to get the deficit and debt under control and you have to grow the economy. So if you take tax loopholes to fuel more spending, which is what they are proposing, then you are preventing tax reform which we think is necessary to end crony capitalism and to grow the economy. That’s why we think you need to cut spending to pay for this.
Jon Karl: Your bottom line is?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Yes, our bottom line is cut spending to pay for this.
Jon Karl: And you’re saying no tax increases, period, to pay for this.
Congressman Paul Ryan: Yes, that’s right because revenues, loopholes are necessary for tax reform. If you take them for spending, you’re blocking tax reform and you’re really not getting the deficit under control.
Jon Karl: OK, now, the next big thing here is you -- the speaker has said you are going to come out with a balanced budget that's going to balance the budget in ten years. Your last budget didn't balance until well after 2030. So this is a big, new step. Some in your own party are a little worried about this. Mike Simpson, Republican congressman from Idaho said "we are saying a ten-year balance. That's tougher than the last Ryan budget... There could be a significant number of Republicans that say, I'm not going there because it would be too dramatic” (Politico / Friday). How are you going to balance the budget in ten years? What further things are you going to cut that you didn't last time?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Well, we'll show you when we finish writing the budget. We haven't literally finished writing it. We've just begun because we just now got our baseline so I can't answer the question since it's not a complete task. But I'm very comfortable with the fact that we will pass this. I'm very comfortable with the fact that we will produce a budget that balances. Our last budget balanced, it just balanced a little later. This one will balance on time because we have new numbers to work with from the Congressional Budget Office that I think will make it easier for us to balance.
And look, the point also is this – we're producing a budget. We're going to be passing a budget. The Senate hasn't passed a budget for four years. The president has never proposed ever to ever balance the budget. That's wrong. The reason we want to do this is not simply to make numbers add up, we want to prevent a debt crisis, we want to grow the economy, we want to get people back to work in society and if we have a debt crisis, that is bad for our economy today and let's never forget we're robbing from future generations. We've got to address that.
Jon Karl: We're almost out of time. I've got to ask you about this new effort from Karl Rove to weed out what he's calling problem candidates and Republican primaries. One conservative talk radio host said of this effort "we are now at the point where you are almost better off in the Republican Party being endorsed by Barack Obama than Karl Rove. He is the reverse Midas" (Steve Deace, Iowa Radio Host, Monday). Now I might note, by the way, that Karl Rove has recently called you one of the most remarkable political talents in America. But putting that aside, do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing to have a, you know, big Washington power broker trying to get in there and meddle in Republican primaries?
Congressman Paul Ryan: You know what, Jonathan, I don't even pay attention to this stuff. I'm too busy trying to do my job. I'm too busy trying to put a budget together a budget that balances, to grow the economy, to create opportunity, to get bipartisan immigration reform. I really don't pay attention to this. So I have no thoughts on the matter whatsoever.
Jon Karl: No thoughts whatsoever. OK, before you go you know I have to ask you about your future. There was an article in Politico by my friends Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei about your political future saying you are less inclined to run for president. And this quote caught my eye "Paul will never say he's not running for president because the constant speculation carries too many advantages, said a longtime friend. He will keep answering the questions in a way that will keep nosy political reporters interested." Now, congressman at risk of being a nosy political reporter here, is it true, are you considerably less likely now to run for president in 2016?
Congressman Paul Ryan: Actually, Jonathan, you've known me a long time and the one thing you know about me is I don't play that game. I don't talk like that. So when you see these articles that are really not accurate, that's par for the course in Washington these days. The point is this; I think the most important thing for me to do is do my job representing the first district of Wisconsin, trying to prevent a debt crisis, helping get a solution to the economy, to jobs, to getting our deficit and debt under control. That to me is my first priority. That's what I'm focused on. Will I or won't I? I don't know. I literally do not know the answer to these questions about what is the best role for me to play to fix these problems for our country in the future. The point is I don't know the answer because I'm just not putting a great deal of thought into it. I'm not foreclosing any opportunity. I may or I may not. I just don't know because right now we just had an election. We've got jobs to do. What bothers me is this permanent campaign the president has us in. We need to start thinking about doing our jobs after these elections than thinking about the next election. That's the problem we have in Washington.
Jon Karl: Unfortunately we're out of time but I'm going to take that as a definite maybe. Thank you very much, Congressman Paul Ryan.
Congressman Paul Ryan: All right.
Jon Karl: Appreciate your time.