Rep. Paul Ryan will appear on prime time TV to give the official Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union next Tuesday.
Ryan is known as one of the GOP’s chief wonks and big thinkers. He chairs the House Budget Committee since Republicans took control of the House this month and he wrote a much-quoted “Road For America’s Future” which sets out a more sustainable path fiscal path for the U.S. Government. The selection of Ryan was made by the two top Republicans on Capitol Hill – House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to address the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges that face our country,” said Boehner in a statement. “We’re broke, and decisive action is needed to help our economy get back to creating jobs and end the spending binge in Washington that threatens our children’s future. I’m pleased that Paul will be outlining a common-sense vision for moving our country forward.”
It is from the Budget committee hearing room that Ryan will give his address, further driving home the fact that Republicans now control the House and will pass a budget this year that seeks to limit government. One proposal released Thursday would curb government spending by $2.5 trillion over ten years.
A fiscal purist, Ryan is also young and energetic (and telegenic) and is probably a good choice to connect with viewers after the President’s speech. President Obama travels next Wednesday, after the speech, to Wisconsin, a battleground state, where he will try to bring his message to Americans outside the beltway.
Ryan hails from Wisconsin, where Republicans picked up two Congressional seats in November as well as unseating long-time Democratic Senator Russ Feingold.
But there are dangers in the selection too.
His Roadmap is indeed a well-thought-out plan on how to secure the country’s fiscal future. It is also full of political landmines. It would undo the current Medicare system for everyone under 55 and, starting in 20 years, give those people $11,000 government credits to buy health insurance on the open market instead of guaranteed fee-for-service benefits through the government under Medicare. Democrats attack this type of proposal as privatizing Medicare.
Similarly with Social Security, Ryan’s plan would give people under the age of 55 the option of privately-run social security accounts. While Republicans will point to the added choice this gives citizens to do with their money what they choose, it is notable that President George W. Bush tried and failed to accomplish this when he had control of the House and Senate.
Here is a rundown of the good and the bad of the Ryan pick for the GOP:
Why they should have picked Ryan:
1. He is brainy and well-respected and has the most coherent and plan for fiscal discipline.
2. He is from Wisconsin and Obama will be traveling there the day after the State of the Union.
3. He is young and represents a new generation. Even though Ryan has been on Capitol Hill for 11 years, he was only 29 when he first took office. His youth could represent Republicans attempt to break out of the same old partisan fights that have held “our” generation hostage
4. Selecting a Congressman will remind everyone that President Obama doesn’t get to call all the shots any more. He’s got to get a GOP House to go along with him. Obama’s owned the bully-pulpit these last few weeks, but the GOP needs to find a way to get the megaphone back
5. He is telegenic.
Why they shouldn’t have picked Ryan:
1. His budget plan will be austere, to say the least and likely cut numerous government programs near and dear to individual voters and members of Congress.
2. His “Roadmap”, separate from the Budget, would privatize social security and Medicare
3. Voters dislike Congress more than they dislike Obama and the selection of Ryan keeps the focus on Washington, DC. The last two Republican rebuttals were given out in the country by the governors of Louisiana and Virginia, respectively.
Speaking to these points, Don Stewart, spokesman for McConnell, said that people want action in Washington after the November election and Ryan will represent that.
“This is where it’s going to get done,” Stewart said. “People want us to actually do something. They want more than just talk.”
And now that Republicans control the House, should be able to pass a budget that sends a strong message of fiscal restraint.
Watch Ryan tell George Stephanopoulos about Republicans Agenda ahead of the November elections here:<br /