Paul Ryan: Budget Deal not Perfect, but Step in Right Direction

Image: Paul Ryan: Budget Deal not Perfect, but Step in Right Direction

Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 09:25 PM

By Greg Richter

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Not long after his joint press conference Tuesday with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., took to Fox News to defend the budget deal the two had hammered out.

"This isn't the greatest agreement of all time," Ryan told Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren," acknowledging there is still a long way to go to get the deficit under control. "But this is a step in the right direction."

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The two negotiators head the budget committees in their respective congressional chambers. With the House controlled by the Republicans and the Senate by the Democrats, it is the first budget deal brokered by a divided Congress since 1986.

The full Senate and House still have to vote on the compromise bill, and Ryan said that vote will come in the House on Thursday.

Ryan said the bill holds to conservative principles, including deficit reduction and lower taxes. Still, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., released a statement saying he opposed the bill minutes after the press conference ended.

Ryan said some Republicans will choose to vote against the bill for various reasons, but he thinks it will ultimately pass. Also, "no" votes in the Senate aren't as big a blow because Democrats control a majority 55 of the 100 seats.

For the past three years, Congress has been operating on continuing resolutions, which essentially hand the power of the purse to the executive branch, Ryan said. Tuesday's agreement puts that power back in the hands of Congress.

"The legislative branch, Congress, we're supposed to set spending, we're supposed to prioritize money, we are supposed to exercise the power of the purse," Ryan told Van Susteren.

Both sides had to give up things they wanted, Ryan said, and in the end the deal was struck where common ground could be reached.

"You don't have to require the other person to violate a core principle to get things done," Ryan said.

The GOP would not agree to extend unemployment benefits, which the Democrats pressed for, and Democrats would not agree to means testing for Medicare benefits, which Ryan said he wanted.

The deal doesn't touch the debt ceiling, he said. Only by limiting talks to spending and deficits were they able to reach such an agreement. Other issues can wait for another day, he said, adding that much of his own wish list can't be accomplished so long as there is divided government.

Many conservatives balked at getting rid of the sequester, which requires across-the-board budget cuts. Ryan said they have no need to worry.

"We're not turning the sequester off," he said. "We're just giving a little bit of short-term relief for the sequester, and keeping it."

The deal would stop the threat of more government shutdowns in January and October. The half-month partial shutdown last October was a poll-ratings fiasco for Republicans. They only emerged from it after the botched rollout of Obamacare began grabbing headlines and sinking President Barack Obama's approval ratings.

Further shutdowns, Ryan said, are not in Republicans' interest.

"I think some people would like to see the political distraction of a government shutdown," he said. "We would like to focus on doing oversight on the executive branch, oversight on Obamacare, oversight on the IRS, and not focus on these government shutdowns."

The White House, he said, doesn't necessarily like shutdowns, but they do tend to give Democrats the benefit of taking the focus off Obamacare.

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Ryan listed several things he thinks the agreement accomplishes, including:
  • Stops military spending from being cut further while cutting spending on "autopilot programs" that have been untouched for years.
  • Asks government employees to pay more into their pensions.
  • Opens a "little bit" of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling: 172 million barrels of oil and 302 billion cubic feet of natural gas in an area that had been closed off.
  • Requires deadbeat fathers to pay their children's Medicaid bills.
  • Stops sending prisoners checks from the IRS that they shouldn't be getting.
  • Makes sure people can't steal dead people's identities so they keep getting checks from government.
  • Stops taxpayer money from paying for research for private energy companies.

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