House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan insisted Thursday that his bipartisan spending proposal keeps most of the sequester intact and that the deal he worked out with Senate Democrats is "a step in the right direction" to controlling the deficit.
"Ninety-two percent of the sequester is left intact," the Wisconsin Republican said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"During the course of this agreement, a year and a half fiscal-year-wise, we got the Democrats, who are against any of the sequester, to agree to 70 percent of the sequester, and the 30 percent of relief we're providing."
The two-year agreement calls for a $63 billion increase in discretionary spending, raises air transportation security fees, and stops a portion of scheduled automatic cuts over the next two years. Ryan said he "looked for common ground" with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray during their negotiations and produced what he termed was a "modest agreement" that will be good for the economy and for holding the growth of the government in check.
"This is a modest step in the right direction that says more deficit reduction, less military cuts, and no tax increases. That, to me, advances our principles," Ryan said, responding to conservative criticism that the fails to address entitlement reform or and other out-of-control spending problems.
He stressed that "it reduces the deficit without raising taxes" and prevents the military "from getting deeply cut again." It also "prevents a second government shutdown this year," he said.
"I think that's in the interest of our country. I think that advances our principles."
A sticking point for some Democrats is that the Ryan-Murray measure does not extend unemployment benefits, which are due to expire Dec. 28. Ryan said House Speaker John Boehner would consider options to help pay for the extension, but that none have been offered by the White House.
"[Boehner] will entertain a proposal from the president that pays for it, that has offsets, and that has some pro-growth reforms," he said. "We haven't seen a proposal coming."
Ryan acknowledged that the deal was probably a disappointment for anybody who was looking for the negotiations with Murray to produce a so-called "grand bargain" on the budget. He said it wasn't possible, given the years of hard-line disagreement and institutional gridlock between Democrats and Republicans.
But he said the plan provides a starting point for further budget negotiations, which has been nearly impossible to achieve over the last few years. He also added that he believes it could open the way to the serious consideration of tax reform beginning next year.
"I do like the idea that we're learning how to talk to each other. We're learning how to get things done without compromising principles. My hope is we can do tax reform next year," Ryan said.
"In this day and age, with this completely broken, dysfunctional government, it's a step in the right direction."
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