Ryan keeps hope alive that compromise is possible
By FRANK SCHULTZ, Janesville Gazette
Paul Ryan and Barack Obama don't see eye-to-eye, but when they talked about their deeply held beliefs last week, it gave Ryan a glimmer of hope they might reach a compromise.
Ryan, the 1st District congressman who ran with Mitt Romney to unseat the president last fall, told The Gazette in a phone interview Tuesday that he thinks the president understands the need to control the costs of enormously expensive entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Ryan said it was the first time that he and Obama had an extensive exchange of views about that.
"I'm not sure he's heard those arguments, at least not like I put them," Ryan said.
"And I think it was very constructive for us to give each other our very candid perspectives. That's a necessary beginning if you're going to find common ground, so I came away from that lunch thinking that at least we're starting by better understanding each other's positions, and, you know, we'll see where it goes from here," Ryan said.
Ryan said he feels more optimistic this year about a budget compromise that could end the crisis-to-crisis management of the budget. That's because the Democrat-controlled Senate is putting out its own budget document for the first time in four years.
"That means the process continues past just me passing a budget, which keeps open the possibility that we could get something done," Ryan said.
Ryan seemed to be saying that the House and Senate budgets released this week are just a beginning: "What you need to do is pass what you believe is right and then look for common ground in between," he said.
The debate will likely last into the summer, Ryan predicted.
"We'll see," Ryan said of a possible compromise. "It won't be from my lack of trying."
Also in Tuesday's interview, Ryan said:
-- He met with "workforce development folks from Janesville" on Tuesday and heard from them that they liked a part of his budget that would consolidate 49 federal job-training programs coming from nine agencies and give states the flexibility to provide training to address a skills gap and get people back to work.
"The skills gap, whether you're talking to folks at Blackhawk Tech or prospective employers, is something we really go after in this budget," Ryan said.
-- Welfare reform should focus on getting people on the road to self-sufficiency with jobs. He said he has heard a lot of concern from constituents who worry that welfare does not do that now.
"Let's not focus on how much money we spend—like we're focusing on inputs—but let's focus on how many people we're helping get back on their feet again," he said.
-- He heard from constituents, "especially small businesses in our industrial parks," that recent tax increases put them at a disadvantage as they compete globally. He said his plan would lower tax rates while removing loopholes to keep the same amount of government revenue.
-- He would not say what tax loopholes he would like to plug. That's the work of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he has a seat, he said.
"You'll see our final product when we put it together," he said. "First things first."