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Paul Ryan On The Deal, Obamacare, and ’16

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, was a guest to start the program today with Congressman John Campbell filling in for Hugh.  Here is the audio of the interview.

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And here is the transcript:

JC: Paul Ryan, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you back here. And let’s just get straight into things. First of all, the deal, explain in your own words to the Hugh Hewitt audience what is this deal and why was it a good thing for you and for me to vote for?

PR: Well, hey, John, good to be with you, thanks for having me in the first place.

First of all, the deal needed to maintain our principles. That is no tax increases, make sure you actually net reduce the deficit. If you recall, the Budget Control Act, which set the sequester in place, it envisioned replacing the sequester with cuts in other part of government we call mandatory spending. That’s the sort of entitlement autopilot part of spending that Congress does not address on an annual basis. And it said that for every dollar of sequester, you had to cut a dollar of mandatory spending. Well, we exceeded that, and that’s why we have deficit reduction. Now is this our budget? No, this is not our budget. The budget that you and I voted for that we passed out of Budget Committee that you helped me write last spring is what we believe and what we want, what we’re going for. That balances the budget, pays off the debt, reforms all of our entitlement programs. This prevents two government shutdowns from possibly occurring next year. This allows us to stay focused on Obama and Obamacare and all of its problems. It allows us to stay on offense and rollout a conservative vision for what we need to do to grow the economy and keep America safe. And it makes sure that we can keep our focus where we want to. I think it puts us in a better position for 2014. The Democrats came to the table saying get rid of the entire sequester. In this agreement over the next year and a half, we keep 70%. And the 30% of the sequester relief, half of it goes back to Defense to prevent that from being cut further, which is a concern of many of our fellow colleagues. And 92% of the sequester is retained in this agreement over the life of the sequester. And we’ve established a new precedent, which is you don’t go back to the taxpayer. You actually net cut spending so that you further reduce the deficit if you’re going to have fiscal pressure relief.

So I believe given that we did not have the votes to keep the sequester throughout next year, and you and I both know that, that this was a step in the right direction, and that this puts us in a much better position for 2014. And it shows that we have to actually reduce the deficit whenever we do something like this.

So this isn’t what we fully want. This isn’t going a mile in our direction. This takes a step in the right direction.

And it also shows that we can govern. It prevents government shutdowns from occurring. I think that people are kind of sick of crises in Washington, and I think they’d like to know that the Republicans are up to the task of being a majority party, of governing, of stopping these crises, and of making government function at the basic level. The last point is finally, for the first time in a few years, we’re taking the power of the purse away from the administration, and bringing it back to Congress. By having this agreement, that means we write the appropriations bills. We in Congress set spending levels. We who are in the Congress can add spending cuts to government agency budgets along with our oversight, which is real oversight of things like the Environmental Protection Agency. We haven’t done that in many years. We’ve given the president a blank check, and by reclaiming the appropriations process and the power of the purse, we can restore some Constitutional balance which we’ve been missing in Washington. So for those reasons are why I think you and I, and others, needed to support this.

JC: Now you know, if you’re a Defense-oriented Republican, like Hugh Hewitt, by the way, who is cruising on a cruise somewhere in South America, this thing’s a no-brainer…

PR: Absolutely.

JC: …because you get all that you said, plus you get some more money in Defense like, as John McCain said, et cetera. But if you’re not, and I’m not, as you know. It’s one of the things that Hugh and I disagree on, one of the, I believe you told us in conference last week that after this deal, we’re actually going to spend less in discretionary spending than was in the budget…

PR: Yeah.

JC: …in the Republican budget that got all Republican votes and no Democratic votes?

PR: Yeah, that’s the other thing, is Politico has a good article up there that David Rogers, who’s a budget reporter, wrote about we’re taking spending back to the 2008 levels before Obama came into town. I mean, if you look at real constant dollars, we’re actually sort of wiping out the spending gusher of the early Pelosi-Reid-Obama days. In the budget that you and I fought for last session, that was excoriated as this, you know, remember, they showed these videos of me pushing grandma over the cliff?

JC: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, I very clearly remember those, yeah.

PR: That budget, which triggered those ads, we were fighting for bringing discretionary spending to $1,019,000,000,000 dollars. Under this agreement, we won’t hit that number until the year 2017. So we are a few years ahead of schedule on where we wanted to put discretionary spending. It’s not going to hit the lowest number we fought for in the entire last session until 2017, and we’re actually cutting spending in other areas before we get to that number. So to me, looking at the whole scheme of things, we have done a very good job of keeping spending low. Not as low as I want, but keeping spending low, dialing back the big spending increases of the Obama years, and showing Democrats that if we are going to go forward, we had to have permanent spending cuts in other areas of government to relieve this pressure, and the net result must be reducing the deficit. Now I’d like to add a few more zeroes to this deficit reduction, but that’s why we’ve got to win 2014. That’s why we’ve got to win 2016. It’s just clear to me that we’re not going to do what we need to do to save the American dream, to pay off the debt, to reform the entitlement programs, with this president and this Senate. And we need new ones. And I think this helps put us in a better position to do that.

JC: Now Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi last Thursday famously addressed her, now-famously addressed her caucus and told them to “embrace the suck.” Now grammar aside, it was pretty clear that Pelosi was not happy with this deal, but felt they needed to pass it. And as I read her comment, she said well, we have to avoid a shutdown so we can get on and run against a do-nothing Congress and various things like that. But some 30-something Democrats voted against it in the House. What did the Democrats not like about this? What was the suck that Nancy Pelosi was talking about that made it so difficult for Democrats to swallow this?

PR: Well, in the negotiations, which took place over the last few months, they insisted on turning off all of the sequester and getting rid of it entirely. For the next year and a half, we keep 70% of the sequester. So they got 30% of what they wanted, I got 70% of what we wanted. Over the life of the sequester, we keep 92% of it intact. They wanted a big unemployment extension, which would be the 13th extension of this 2008 Emergency Unemployment program, which was put on top of the traditional unemployment. They did not get that.

JC: And that’s the, what, 96 weeks or something like that?

PR: That’s right, that’s right.

JC: Yeah.

PR: So we did not give them that. We kept…

JC: So that goes back to, what, 24 weeks?

PR: 26 weeks. Yeah, 26.

JC: Yeah, it goes back 26 weeks.

PR: And then there’s some emergency for a state with excessively high unemployment on top of that.

JC: Right, right.

PR: And then they wanted stimulus spending. They wanted a new round of stimulus spending. Clearly, we didn’t give them that. Oh, and they also wanted tax increases. They wanted to close tax loopholes and take those proceeds for more spending.

JC: What were they going to do?

PR: They didn’t get that, either.

JC: What were they going to do? I mean, what taxes are left to increase? What…

PR: They wanted to close loopholes. Basically, they wanted to take higher income individuals, take away any other write-offs that they had, and then on the corporate side, there were a number of loopholes they were going after.

JC: Okay.

PR: …on business taxes. The effective top rate today for individuals is 44.6%. What, I don’t, what is your income tax rate in California? It’s something like 14…

JC: It goes up to 13.3%.

PR: Good Lord…

JC: Yeah, I know, yeah.

PR: They wanted to go even higher on that front. We denied them that. So no tax increases, no stimulus spending, no 13th extension of the Emergency Unemployment provision, and immediately, 70% of the sequester intact, 92% over the life of the sequester, and we prevented these two shutdowns from occurring next year. I think shutdowns are a needless distraction. They inject uncertainty into the economy. And you know as well as I do, Republicans get blamed for them every time it happens.

JC: Yeah, I mean, there’s no question. I mean, there was one, I think, in Reagan’s time, and Reagan got blamed. So it’s not like it’s always Congress. It’s always Republicans. And the last one in October certainly didn’t go well for our team. People, if you go back and look at the President’s approval rating and our approval ratings then and what they are now, now that we got past that, it’s dramatically different. But let me ask you, Paul Ryan, because a lot of the people who vote against this say well, I would rather have this, which is the ideal situation, which you and I would rather have as well.

PR: Of course.

JC: But you can’t compare this against a pure Republican solution when Barack Obama is president, Harry Reid is Senate majority leader. So you have to compare this against what we might have gotten. Suppose the Senate, now the Senate’s going to vote on this, what, tomorrow or Wednesday, I guess?

PR: Cloture tomorrow, Wednesday final passage.

JC: Let’s say they turned it down. Let’s say they didn’t vote for it. What are we looking at then?

PR: Then, we’ll have a government shutdown drama in January, possibly another shutdown drama in October, and I believe our party leaders, and you know them as well as I do, in an effort to try and prevent that shutdown at the end of the day, at the 11th hour, would take a much worse deal with much less leverage, because we would have shown that we don’t have the votes to stick with the sequester. And so I worry that then you would have a complete capitulation. That was what I was worried about. This keeps our principles intact, keeps sequester, most of the sequester in place, and it cuts other spending in other areas of government that are on autopilot to pay for this. So it keeps our principles intact and prevents those shutdowns. And I believe that that’s in the best interest. We would have had, the only cuts that occur from now on are just to the Pentagon, to the military. A lot of our members were really worried about that.

JC: And that’s why we couldn’t get the votes, as you mentioned, for a complete…

PR: That’s why we couldn’t get the votes to keep the sequester, because it just cuts the military from here on out.

JC: Right, right.

PR: And too many of our colleagues were opposed to that. So we prevented those cuts from the military, and we cut spending elsewhere in excess so that we had this net deficit reduction. And that, to me, is the best outcome we could have achieved. And as conservatives, you have to look at the world as it is, not the world that you want it to be, but the world as it is, and make smart moves so that you can get to where you want to go. And I believe this is a smart move that gets us where we want to be in 2014 so that we can win. We have to win a couple of elections, John, to save the country from this debt crisis that’s coming, to save them from the big government, to replace and repeal Obamacare. We’re going to have to win in ’14 and ’16 to do that, and I personally think this puts us in a better position to do this. But just as an American, I think people are just tired of all these crises. I think they’re tired of shutdowns, of crises. I’ve got a buddy who’s a small business guy, very apolitical, who sent me an email saying you know, thank you for just stopping these shutdowns, because this uncertainty is killing us out here in the small business sector. So just from a governing standpoint, I think it’s a good idea to just keep government functioning so that we can have this bigger fight about what the meaning and mission and purpose of government is, and give us a better chance to actually winning these elections, to saving the country.

JC: Let’s talk about those next couple of fights, briefly. Let’s assume, now, that the Senate does pass this on Wednesday, and this issue is behind us. Debt limit comes up probably around March-ish, and you and I know, and most of the listeners here know, that Obamacare is going to continue to fall apart. The news will get worse and worse, not better and better. What is the debt limit play? And do you think there’s anything we can actually do with Obamacare between now and the election?

PR: Well, I think that’s going to be up to Obama. I think we will keep offering things that we think help us repeal Obamacare, not necessarily make the law more tolerable or livable, but make the law go away faster. And so there are certain things that I think we could do. For instance, they call these things risk corridors. They’re basically insurance company bailouts. If insurance companies are losing so much money, there’s a provision that says the taxpayer will bail them out.

JC: Right.

PR: I want to get rid of that.

JC: Right, because otherwise, they’re going to bail them out.

PR: Yeah. I think that would be a good idea, a good step in the right direction, stop these potential insurance company bailouts. I think we could do things like that. With respect to the debt limit, you and I and our colleagues are going to have to meet early after the holidays to decide what’s the right course going forward in that. We’ve never just done nothing. We want to make sure that we’re taking steps in the direction of fiscal conservatism, of fiscal responsibility. I, for one, think we need to do more in the energy sector. I believe we need to approve Keystone Pipeline. We need to produce regulatory certainties to all this private capital that develops this energy boon. We could be an energy independent continent within a decade if we stop the government from stopping it from happening. If we just get the government out of the way, it could be a real renaissance of oil and gas exploration in America, lower our gas prices, stop sending this money to foreign countries. It helps us with our foreign policy. So I think there are things we can do in our majority to leverage, to get some of that going as well. So…

JC: Let me, on the debt limit, Paul…

PR: Yeah.

JC: The agreement you just made handles discretionary spending. The mandatory spending, which is the entitlements, the Democrats wouldn’t touch.

PR: That’s right.

JC: So if we’ve already made an agreement on part of the budget, and the other part of the budget they won’t touch, what’s left for us to ask for on the debt limit?

PR: Well, that’s a good question. We’re going to have to figure that out. What I was fighting for in this agreement, like means testing Medicare, of dealing with the fact that these programs, that longevity is increasing, and these programs can’t afford it. Those are the kinds of structural improvements to these entitlements that save a lot of money and make them more solvent that I was pushing for that Democrats were steadfastly opposed. And you know, like I said in this deal, we didn’t get everything we wanted. I didn’t get the entitlement reforms I wanted. Patty Murray didn’t get the tax increases she wanted. Maybe we can go back at some of those things that we were looking for.

JC: So, Paul Ryan, are you going to run for president? You can announce it right here on the Hugh Hewitt Show. That’d be fine.

PR: As you can probably tell, I’m not doing the things that one would advise one to do if they were running for president, I can tell you that. The way I look at it is I need to do my job. You and our other colleagues asked me to chair the Budget Committee. And the people in Wisconsin who sent me to Congress sent me to go work on their careers, not my career. And so the things I’m doing in Congress are what I think are in the interests of the country to make us in a better position to win, and not about my own ambition. I am not letting any personal ambitious considerations cloud my judgment today. So I’m just not thinking about that stuff. I’ve got a job to do now. I think it’s an important job on behalf of my district, country and my colleagues, and I’m just not going to think about that stuff until after this session.

JC: Well, Paul Ryan, if you do make that decision, put John Campbell down as one of your very first supporters right up there on the masthead. So I’m with you. I’m 100% behind you if you do decide to run.

PR: I appreciate it. I’d love to see you come, it’s 7 degrees and snowing right here in Wisconsin right now. I’d love to see you come and campaign with us over here in the upper Midwest.

JC: Yeah, it’s 84 degrees here in Los Angeles.

PR: In December.

JC: Yeah, it’s 84 degrees here in Los Angeles, but your tax rate is lower in Wisconsin, so there’s some offset there.

PR: A lot lower.

JC: Paul Ryan, thank you so much. I know you’ve got a lot of other things to get to. Thank you so much for being on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

PR: You bet, John, take care.

JC: Bye bye.

End of interview.

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    Hugh Hewitt
  • Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, and broadcast journalist. A proficient blogger, Hugh Hewitt has one of the most visited political blogs in the U.S.

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