The Corner

Ryan: GOP Won’t “Rubber Stamp” a Debt Increase

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) discussed budget issues (spending cuts v. tax increases) and the upcoming vote to increase the debt limit with Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation.”

On raising the debt ceiling:

Nobody wants to play around with the country’s credit rating, nobody wants to see default happening, but we also think it’s important to get a handle on future borrowing as we deal with raising the debt limit. So nobody’s saying we want to see default, we just want to get some cuts and controls on spending going forward, and that is what we have been telling the White House.

On President Obama’s criticism of Ryan and his budget:

In divided government, I think it helps if we treat each other with respect, there’s plenty of time for campaigning, look the president doesn’t have a primary opponent, he doesn’t even have an announced Republican opponent yet, there’s plenty of time for him to do campaigning later. Right now we’ve got things to do we’ve got problems to solve and so I think it would just be more productive if we put the campaign rhetoric aside…Both parties have done this to each other, I’m not saying only one party does this but I think the tone gets set at the top…

On the leadership vacuum in Washington:

[Obama] appointed a fiscal commission last year to come up with solutions, they came up with solutions, he disavowed their solutions, and now he’s coming up with yet another commission to come up with solutions. My point is we need to lead and we shouldn’t be delegating these tough decision to other people to make…We’re going to lead, we’re putting ideas out there, and we’re not going to kicking it to other people to make decisions like other commissions…

On “cutting taxes on the wealthy”:

“First of all, we’re not talking about cutting taxes, we’re just not agreeing with the president’s tax increases. I guess that’s the new definition of tax cuts. We’re saying keep tax rates where they are right now and get rid of all those loopholes and deductions, which by the way are mostly enjoyed by wealthy people, so you can lower tax rates. We’re basically taking a page out of the playbook of the fiscal commission. The president’s fiscal commission, supported by a majority of Democrats, said the same thing: Broaden the tax base, lower the tax rates for economic growth — a simpler, flatter, fairer tax code, more internationally competitive so we can create jobs. That’s what we’re proposing. This is isn’t tax cuts, it’s tax reform targeting our revenues at where they are right now. We’re just not signing on to all the tax increases that the president’s proposing.”

On why raising taxes wouldn’t solve our debt problem:

If you have really high tax rates what you end up doing is you penalize small businesses. What you have to remember Bob, most successful small businesses file their taxes as individuals. Most of our jobs come from these small businesses. The president is proposing to raise the top tax rate on these small businesses to 44.8 percent. We don’t think that’s good for jobs, we don’t think that’s good for economic growth, and when we tax our employers a whole lot more than our foreign competitors tax theirs, we lose, they win, and we don’t want that.

Two things, number one: We don’t have a tax problem. Our revenues are going back to where they have been historically. We have a big spending problem…The president’s proposing $1.5 trillion in tax increases, the Democrats in congress are proposing anywhere from $2-16 trillion in tax increases based on the three budgets they brought to the floor the other day…Here’s what we’re trying to get: Spending cuts and controls to get spending under control — because that’s the problem — and economic growth and job creation. We don’t want to give up one to get the other.”

On Medicare reform:

No change would occur to anybody 55 years of age or above. The problem is Medicare goes bankrupt in nine years, and unless we do something to save it, it won’t be there for future generations like my generation. And the ideas we’re talking about for reforming Medicare is a system that works just like the one that I have as a member of congress that federal employees have. It works like the prescription drug benefit works now for seniors, which is proven to lower costs and expand choices…

The president had one idea he gave us on Wednesday, which is have this board of 15 people that he appoints ration and price control Medicare for current seniors. So we just don’t think government rationing on Medicare is the answer.

On conditions for raising the debt limit:

There are many different ways of putting caps on spending. The budget we propose has three different kinds of caps on spending — caps on what we call discretionary spending in law, those have worked, Republicans turned them off in the 1990s, they were successful we should go back down that path again; global caps on total government spending; there’s deficit caps, debt caps, there’s lot of different ways of controlling spending and we also think we need to lock in the gains that were achieved in the continuing resolution and get some spending cuts there and carry those savings on into the future so we can actually save money.

On what happens if a there’s no deal by the administration’s May 16 “deadline”:

There are things Treasury can do to get more time, but I sort of reject the premise of the question, which is: We should just ignore the spending problem and just keep raising the debt. Look, we shouldn’t ignore the spending problem, it is why we have this debt problem in the first place. So we need to work together to get spending under control while we deal with this debt. The reason the debt ceiling’s being hit is because spending has been going on unchecked in the past. We want to make sure we deal with this in the future. And so I don’t accept the premise that we just can’t get spending under control around Washington. If that’s true, than we’re going to have a debt crisis.

We won’t just simply raise the debt limit. We will vote to have spending cuts and controls in conjunction with a debt limit increase. I don’t see May 16 as a hard, fast deadline. I think Tim Geithner would probably agree with that. He and I have talked about this. But the key is we shouldn’t just accept the premise that we have to rubber stamp a debt increase without any spending controls. I don’t agree with and I think a lot of Democrats agree on this.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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