ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appear to share the same view of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed overhaul of the Medicare program. Both men say the Ryan plan is “radical.”
Gingrich, who recently announced his bid to unseat Obama in 2012, became the most high-profile Republican to publicly oppose Ryan’s Medicare revamp in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”
Ryan’s plan, part of the GOP budget proposal for 2012, would establish insurance exchanges for older Americans and subsidize their purchase of a private insurance policy based on their income.
Republicans backing the budget say it would help cut the federal budget deficit by $5 trillion over the next 10 years.
“With allies like that, who needs the left?” Ryan said of Gingrich’s criticism in an interview Monday with guest host Raymond Arroyo on Laura Ingraham’s conservative radio talk show. “Hardly is that social engineering and radical. What’s radical is kicking the can down the road.”
Gingrich’s comments also drew criticism from a likely fellow contender for the GOP nomination, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
“For several years, Newt Gingrich has deserved a lot of credit for thinking through a great many issues in a serious and interesting fashion. But his criticism of Congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan yesterday was a big departure from Speaker Gingrich’s often sound policy proposals,” he said in a statement. “Contrary to what Speaker Gingrich said yesterday, the Ryan plan does not ‘suddenly impose’ ‘radical change.’ “
The Gingrich campaign sought to walk back the comments, focusing criticism solely on the “compulsory” nature of the proposed change.
“There is little daylight between Ryan and Gingrich. But look how it gets reported. Newt would fully support Ryan if it were not compulsory,” Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler wrote in an email to The Weekly Standard. “We need to design a better system that people will voluntarily move to. That is a major difference in design but not substance.”
Still, Gingrich said as recently as a few weeks ago that he would have voted for the Ryan plan, according to Time Magazine’s Jay Newton-Small.
“Would you have voted for Ryan’s plan?” Newton-Small asked.
“Sure,” Gingrich replied.
“Do you think it would actually save the health care system?”
“No, I think it’s the first step,” Gingrich said. “You need an entirely new set of solutions.”