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Rep. Paul Ryan Makes GOP Case On Medicare, Budget

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., earlier today (May 26, 2011). i i

hide captionRep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., earlier today (May 26, 2011).

Erin Schwartz/NPR
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., earlier today (May 26, 2011).

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., earlier today (May 26, 2011).

Erin Schwartz/NPR

One day after assailing Democrats for what he says are their "Medi-scare" political tactics, the author of the Republican plan to remake Medicare and Medicaid and cut the federal deficits and debts made the case that so far Republicans are "negotiating with ourselves" on those key issues because Democrats are the ones that won't enter the debate.

We updated this post as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) talked with NPR reporters and editors.

On Tuesday, Democrats won a special House election in western New York State in what has been a traditionally Republican district. They made Ryan's plan a centerpiece of their attack on the GOP candidate.

Wednesday, the Senate — with five Republicans joining the majority — rejected Ryan's plan.

Our friend Frank James over at It's All Politics will be analyzing Ryan's words later.

Update at 10:24 a.m. ET. "No Plans To Run For President":

Asked as the discussion came to a close whether he might mount a bid for the White House in 2012, Ryan says:

"I have no plans to run for president ... not really. Where I am right now, I can make a difference."

Besides, he says, he has a young family and a good life in Wisconsin. Now might not be the time to be campaigning in New Hampshire and other early primary states, no matter how nice they are.

Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. "Negotiating With Ourselves" And The Most Important Election In History:

Of budget and health care talks with Democrats, Ryan says "we're just negotiating with ourselves right now." And "based upon the president's speeches and actions, it's my belief that he's not interested in ... patching those rifts."

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. More On The GOP Strategy And Taxes:

If you aim safety net benefits at the poor and those in the middle incomes, and away from those with high incomes, Ryan says you "target assistance where it belongs." Tax increases to pay for such programs, he argues, increases the burden on businesses and makes it harder for them to create jobs.

Update at 10:10 a.m. ET. When Would We Get To Balance?

The GOP plan doesn't produce balanced budgets in the foreseeable future (though it projects smaller deficits than under current forecasts).

"The primary reason," Ryan says, is that "we want to keep the promise to seniors that their benefits will keep going. ... that is basically why we don't balance in the 10-year window."

But, he argues, the plan keeps the deficit — relative to the size of the U.S. economy — below the danger zone.

Update at 10:06 a.m. ET. Mortgage Deduction?

Asked if his argument about tax reform and closing loopholes includes eliminating the deduction for mortgage interest, Ryan says "we need to make a decision as a country as to what features of the tax code are necessary for growth and helpful ... and which are 'picking winners and losers.' "

Update at 10:04 a.m. ET. Raising Taxes?

Is there any room for Republicans to agree with Democrats on some increases in taxes for those earning the highest incomes?

Ryan says no. "Here's the problem if you keep raising tax rates," he says. "You slow down economic growth." To those who argue that taxes used to be higher and the economy did OK, he says, "this is the 21st Century where tax competition matters so much more. ... Our competitors are lowering their tax rates."

And on the argument that the nation has been cutting taxes but the economy hasn't benefited, he says that still doesn't justify higher taxes.

"The way you get higher tax revenues is through fundamental tax reform," he argues. That means taking away tax shelters and loopholes and making taxes more "predictable."

Update at 9:57 a.m. ET. More On Consumers:

If Americans have more influence over the health care system because they have more control over how money is spent, Ryan argues, that should boost "innovation, competition, efficiency [and], productivity."

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET. Empowering Consumers:

One of the basic points of the GOP health care proposal, Ryan says, is that consumers should have more power in the system. The idea: money shouldn't flow "down" from the government to health care providers, but "should go through the person, a more powerful" consumer. In other words, he says, consumers would have greater influence over choice and competition.

Update at 9:50 ET. The Debt Limit Negotiations:

Republicans are using talks over extending the federal debt ceiling to push their budget ideas. Ryan says the debt ceiling deadline offers "an opportunity to get as much as we can on a serious down payment" toward deficit and debt reduction.

Update at 9:47 a.m. ET. No Regrets:

With Democrats campaigning against his plan, does Ryan have any regrets over the proposal or the way it has been unveiled by his party?

He says no: "if we didn't propose these reforms, we would not have proposed a budget that got the debt under control."

And, he adds, "the country is way ahead of the political class" on this subject. "People are ready for these kinds of solutions ... and they want to see leaders out there fighting" for these kinds of ideas.

Update at 9:46 a.m. ET. Three Legs:

The three legs of the GOP plan, Ryan says, are "equal opportunity ... upward mobility ... [and] prosperity."

Update at 9:42 a.m. ET. The GOP Strategy:

The Republican proposals on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other safety net programs, Ryan says, are based on the idea that those who are now retired or about to retire based their lives around current benefits.

He says Republicans don't want to make changes that would affect those 54 and over.

And, "if, you reform it for people 54 and below ... you can keep it for the current generation."

Update at 9:40 a.m. ET. Safety Net Is Going Bankrupt:

"You've got to get the safety net on a better path because it's going bankrupt," Ryan says. And he believes the government needs to be "getting people into lives of self-sufficiency rather than [staying] on welfare."

Update at 9:38 a.m. ET: "Debt Is No. 1" Problem:

"When you take a look at the problems our country is facing, debt is No. 1," Ryan says. "The math is downright scary and the credit markets aren't going to keep on giving us cheap rates."

Lawmakers, he says, have "a moral obligation ... to put up solutions to fix this problem."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET: In introducing Ryan, NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving says his plan is the "most important domestic political event of 2011 so far."

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