House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan stressed one thing over and over when it comes to working with the White House on tax reform: common ground.
"We've got to get the economy growing," Ryan said Sunday on "Meet the Press."
With a stagnant economy that has seen the slowest recovery since World War II, "We've got to break out of the slog," Ryan said.
Ryan was a rare Republican who didn't criticize President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in which he called for cutting the estate tax deduction while giving tax breaks to middle-class and lower-income taxpayers.
Ryan said if common ground can be found, he'd be willing to work with the president, though he made it clear there would be no such common ground on Obama's estate tax plan.
"The last time that was done Democrats in Congress quickly rescinded," Ryan said. "It destroyed family farms. … You're actually making it really hard for a family to pass on a family business to the next generation."
Obama, he said, is trying to exploit "envy economics."
The "topdown leadership" of Obama's tenure may make for good politics, but it doesn't make for good economic growth, Ryan said.
One area where Ryan is amendable to finding common ground includes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to people without children. It encourages people to work, Ryan said.
Despite statistics showing lower unemployment and a rising Dow, Ryan said Obama's economy isn't everything it should be. Tens of millions have given up looking for work and are no longer included in the unemployment figures, he noted.
Obama, he said, "gives a lot of happy talk about the economy." Though things have improved, there is still a long way to go, he said.
Ryan called the decision of his 2012 running mate Mitt Romney not to be a candidate for president in 2016 "bittersweet." But he said it was "a perfect style of Mitt Romney decision: country first."
"He's just a class act," Ryan said.
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