Sen. Blunt: Gingrich Probably Wants Words Back on Ryan Medicare Proposal

By Cullen Dirner

May 17, 2011 2:24pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports: Newt Gingrich has come under withering criticism from inside his own party after describing Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal – since endorsed by the full House of Representatives — as “right-wing social engineering.”

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. — who served alongside Gingrich when he was speaker of the House – pushed back at Gingrich’s characterization of the Ryan proposal. He said that while Ryan took “a little bit of a risk” by taking a bold stand, “it’s not a radical idea.”

“I don’t think it’s an extreme proposal at all,” Blunt told us. “I think if Paul Ryan would have set a target goal [for Medicare cuts], that would have served the purpose. But he decided to take a little bit of a risk and put an idea out there. But it’s not a radical idea — it’s one of many ideas we ought to be looking at, because Medicare as we know it today can’t survive for future generations.”

Gingrich, Blunt said, probably wants to take his words back.

“Newt’s an ideas guy, and he likes to talk about ideas,” Blunt said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he would think he’s having a debate about ideas. I didn’t understand the radical ‘right-wing social engineering’ comment, and I suspect he wishes he wouldn’t have described it that way.”

“I don’t know why Newt chose those words. But when you’re an ideas guy, you’re eventually going to toss an idea out there or a view of an idea that somebody doesn’t like. And maybe he’ll even decide he wished he said it a little differently.”

Blunt also stood by the Republican promise to not raise the debt limit until significant budget cuts are agreed to. Any blame for delay, he said, should rest with President Obama, who knows the GOP position on the subject well.

“This is a real opportunity for the president to lead,” he said. “You’ve got to look at the spending side, and the president’s going to have to do that if he wants to get this debt limit extended. He’s going to have to do some things that structurally change the way we’re doing business.”

“I don’t know why the president doesn’t want to settle it right now,” Blunt continued. “It’s pretty clear to me — I was in the meeting with the Republican senators the other day, if he doesn’t need any of them he can do whatever he wants to do. If he does need some of us, he’s clearly going to have to make some structural-change decisions.”

“Why not do that this week?” Blunt continued. “It’s really up to the [resident to lead on this issue. He knows where we are.  He knows that you can’t continue to spend this much money and bring in this much money, and I think he knows it has to come out of the spending side.”

And Blunt said he would oppose Democratic efforts to repeal tax breaks for oil companies, arguing that they would do little for the deficit but would discourage energy production.

“I’m going to vote against their proposal. It’s $21 billion over 10 years. It’s a half a day’s borrowing,” Blunt said. “We shouldn’t be discouraging domestic energy production; we should be encouraging domestic energy production. The best way to provide more private sector jobs is the energy sector and the way to do that is not to make it more appealing to energy companies to produce oil and gas somewhere else by eliminating these incentives.”

Watch the interview with Sen. Roy Blunt HERE:

We also checked in with The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis, who told us Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Sarah Palin – should she decide to run – all stand to benefit from the decisions by Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee not to run for president.

And regarding Gingrich’s comments, Lewis said Gingrich was already “skating on thin ice” with conservatives – ice that may grow thinner yet with his critique of Ryan.

“This is very, very damaging for him,” he said. “Conservatives were already a bit skeptical of him. … He was already skating on thin ice… and I really think that was a bridge too far.”

Watch the segment with Matt Lewis HERE:

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