House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan says Obamacare’s glitches are here to stay. In an exclusive interview set to air on tonight’s Kudlow Report, Ryan said the problems with the Affordable Care Act extend far beyond website malfunctions.
“It’s more than the website,” Ryan said. “It’s because this law itself is built from an architecture, a foundation, that’s just not workable.”
Ryan said he sat through several House Committee Oversight meetings in which the administration failed to answer fundamental questions on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. “The point is, they said, ‘Everything is fine, the law is going to be okay. We are ready to roll it out. We won’t have any problems.’” But House Republicans knew better, Ryan said.
“People should know that we tried to prevent this from happening in the first place by fighting a law we did not intend,” Ryan said, referring to the Republican-led House’s 46 attempts to repeal the law. “Then we tried giving people relief from the law by delaying it until 2013. That was rejected and now we are living with this law.”
Frustrated with the Senate’s rejection of attempts to defund and delay the law, Ryan shifted to the GOP’s most plausible tactic to end the Affordable Care Act: winning elections.
“We owe the American people an alternative,” Ryan said. “We want to win elections by saying this is not working for you and there are better ways in keeping with the country’s principles that puts you in charge of your heath-care future.”
Ryan dismissed criticism that the Republican party is in a “civil war” following failed attempts to delay Obamacare as part of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling negotiations. “We’ve had disagreements with each other on tactics,” he said. “These aren’t principles. I don’t know a Republican that doesn’t support comprehensive reforms to replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care.”
The Wisconsin congressman said the GOP will have a chance to showcase its common principles in budget negotiations set to begin Wednesday. He rejected hopes for a “grand bargain” deal, which he said would include pro-growth tax reform, a balanced budget, and entitlement reform.
“I don’t think we’ll get a grand bargain, and we’re not talking about getting a grand bargain,” he said. “Because then, one party will require that the other compromise their core principles, and we won’t get anything done.”
The GOP’s key bargaining chip, Ryan said, is the sequestration, the automatic spending cuts Democrats are seeking to repeal. “If we can’t get anything better than the sequester, then we’ll keep the sequester,” Ryan said. “That’s our base case to begin with.”
Ryan insisted that increased tax revenue was out of the question, calling Keynesian stimulus programs “sugar-high economics.” He said, “We’re not in this business to raise taxes. We’ll take the spending cuts we have and work with those.”
Instead, he said he was willing to negotiate on the “smarter” cuts to replace sequestration. “If we get a down payment on this debt and deficit in exchange for short-term relief, we’ll take it,” he said. “But it has to be on net a positive, meaning we will take the spending cuts right now.”
Ryan said substituting entitlement reform in place of broad spending cuts under sequestration would enable long-term growth in the U.S. economy. “If smart entitlement reforms could replace this crude across-the-board sequester, it would do a couple things,” Ryan said. “It would show the world that America is getting ahead of its problems. We’re not just going to be victims of circumstances. We’re not just going to fall into a debt crisis like Europe, but we’re going to get out of it.”
Entitlement should be at the top of the budget agenda, Ryan said.
“The question is not if we deal with entitlements,” Ryan said. “The question is if we are going to do it before the debt crisis or after the debt crisis. We would like to do it before so that we can shape events in this country instead of having events shape us.”
The congressman said that, ultimately, his job is to find common ground in budget negotiations among Republicans and Democrats. “I would argue that in this very difficult time that we are in, wouldn’t it be nice to show that this American divided government can at least govern?”
Watch the interview here:
– Elizabeth Schulze is a CNBC producer.