House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) sparred with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) over the economy Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. Both expressed hoped that the two parties would be able to come together and reach an agreement on the long-term debt and deficit, but also highlighted the political and ideological tension that exists between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the how to proceed. Host Bob Schieffer could hardly get a word in as the two went at each other.
Ryan said “Washington’s policies” over the past few years had resulted in the slow economic growth the country is currently experiencing — driven by uncertainty over tax and regulatory policy, including the new health-care law and new financial regulations, as well as uncertainty in regard to the long-term debt problem. Hoyer disagreed, arguing that George W. Bush deserved most of the blame for our current economic woes. Ryan wouldn’t have it. “President Obama inherited a tough problem, no two ways about it. I’m not suggesting that’s not the case,” he said. “What I am saying is I think what he’s done since then is to make matter worse not better.”
Hoyer trotted out the Democrats’ favorite “Republican” economist — Mark Zandi of Moody’s — who supported the policies perused by the Obama administration to help “stimulate” the economy. Ryan shot that down as well. “Forget about what the economists said, look at the results,” he said. “The economy is flat.”
Hoyer said a potential starting point for a bipartisan agreement was the final report issued by the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, and chided the three members of the House Republican delegation, Ryan included, for voting against the report. The final report received 11 out of 18 votes, but needed 14 to be considered for adoption by the House and Senate. However, Hoyer neglected to mention that all three House Democrats voted no as well.
“The president disavowed his own commission,” Ryan countered. “He put out a budget that did nothing to fix the problem. Republicans, since we didn’t like all the details in the commission [report], we took a dozen or so ideas from the commission and put it in our budget, and we passed a budget to fix this problem…We put out plan out there.”
Hoyer accused Ryan and House Republicans of going about their budget resolution in a “partisan way,” particular in regard to the Medicare proposal. “We don’t need to change Medicare’s guarantee in order to make sure that it’s fiscally sustainable,” he said.
Ryan countered. “When you say partisan, we took this [premium support] idea from Bill Clinton commission,” he said. “It’s an idea that originally came from [Democrats] … I wonder who is being partisan about Medicare these days and who’s not.”
Hoyer responded by urging both sides to work together. “What Paul should have learned, what all of us should have learned, is if we’re going to move forward in a fiscally responsible way and politically adopt — not just talk about — adopt an objective, it will be because we worked together.”
Ryan said that was his intention all along. “The mistake we made was we took an idea that used to be a Democratic idea, supported by Democrats in the 1990s, and we foolishly thought perhaps this is the start of bipartisan talks, and what we got was partisanship.”
Shieffer asked if there was anything the two parties could possibly agree on. “I think most people agree that we have a big spending problem in Washington,” Ryan said. “It’s inescapable. We want to get spending under control.”
That is why Republicans are demanding that for every dollar the White House wants to raise the federal debt limit, Democrats agree to “more than a dollar’s worth” in spending cuts. “We put $6.2 trillion worth of spending cuts on the table,” Ryan said, referring to the House budget resolution. “There’s plenty to choose from, and so we’d like to think somewhere that the Democrats would be willing to get spending under control and get this debt under control.”
Hoyer criticized Ryan and other Republicans for refusing to consider tax increases, citing the revenue raising proposals recommended by the deficit commission. What followed was a rather testy exchange between the two congressmen over competing economic theories. “Supply-side economics, frankly, has failed,” Hoyer said. “It failed in the Reagan administration where we incurred $1.4 trillion in new deficit. It failed…”
“Steny, the commission recommended supply-side economics,” Ryan interrupted. “Erskine Bowles is saying lower tax rates for economic growth…We think revenues should grow by growing the economy, and raising tax rates hurts economic growth.”
Hoyer shot back: “Now listen to me,” he said to Ryan. “That was the argument in 1981, that was the argument in 2001 and both times we had continuing large deficits.”
“The difference today is we’re putting up the spending cuts,” Ryan said.