For months, Rep. Paul Ryan has been watching the GOP presidential primary. As candidates have outlined tax reforms and championed growth, he’s cheered. On the fiscal front, however, he has heard little from leading contenders. Privately, he’s grumbled about the lack of specifics.
But after recent conversations with Romney and reading his latest USA Today op-ed, Ryan is enthused. The former Massachusetts governor supports a defined-contribution model for Medicare — in which beneficiaries are allowed to choose their own plans — the keystone of the budget passed by House Republicans. “It shows we’re all singing from the same hymnal,” he says.
“It shows me that he’s willing to be bold and specific on the big issues of the day,” he adds.
Ryan acknowledges that Romney’s plan is not a copy of the House GOP budget. And he’s fine with that, including Romney’s inclusion of traditional Medicare as an option within a defined-contribution model. “Alice Rivlin has been pushing this for a while,” Ryan says. “It works just as well as the other ideas. It’s different than what we have proposed, but it’s a fixed amount that you can take to either your private plans or a traditional fee-for-service system. As far as budget savings and driving patient-centered reforms, it still accomplishes that goal.”
Any nitpicking over Romney’s decision to leave traditional Medicare services as an option, Ryan says, misses the larger point of the op-ed. “This plan is in perfect keeping with what we’ve been talking about,” he says. “The key is to move toward a defined-contribution system where the money runs through the person instead of the government, driving patient-centered reforms.”
With Romney backing the general thrust of the House budget, “this helps us more clearly delineate the choice that truly faces the country,” Ryan says. “You have to take political risks, you have to take policy risks and apply principles to the policies of the day. As a party, we’re now firing on all cylinders.”
Romney, Ryan predicts, will likely be slammed by progressives for his proposal. Earlier this year, Ryan became a favorite target of Democrats’ after shepherding related reforms through the House. “They got me pushing grandma off a cliff,” he chuckles. “Of course he’s going to get attacked. All the more reason this is a good move. It shows boldness and a willingness to take political risk.”
“This is the moment where we need political leaders to do that in order to save the country,” he says. “That’s why I enjoy seeing this kind of leadership among our candidates.”
— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.