House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin says Republicans have no plans to shy away from controversial efforts to reform entitlements when the House GOP drafts its budget this year, including transforming Medicare into a premium-support system.
"We're not backing off on the kinds of reforms that we've advocated, but we have to write it," Paul said during a break at the GOP's issues conference in Baltimore today. "We've done more to normalize the idea of premium support than anything at all. We're confident that these are the right policies. There's an emerging bipartisan consensus that's occurring on doing premium support reform to Medicare is the best way to save Medicare."
Ryan, who is widely respected as the GOP's top budget expert, said voters will have to choose between the Republican Party that will pursue "an opportunity society with a safety net" or go with the Democrats and pick a "European social democracy."
"This is not just a referendum about one person. This is not simply a referendum about the economy. This is really a referendum about the American idea and what kind of country we want to be, what kind of people we want to be," Ryan said.
"We feel that we have an obligation to our fellow citizens and our constituents to offer them an alternative, so that they can choose what they want."
Ryan said that he believes the GOP's Medicare overhaul has "become more politically palatable" but he would not divulge the specifics of this year's budget because he said the committee is still working to draft it. "It's going to be a long year," Ryan admitted. "Our members are ready to go forward. They're excited. They're excited about giving these ideas, about adding solutions and about reclaiming our founding principles that made us so exceptional, so great in the first place, and reapplying it to the problems of the day, and that's exactly the kind of agenda we're putting together here.
"There's emerging bipartisan consensus going forward on how to fix Medicare," Ryan said. "Medicare is going bankrupt and it has to be saved. It's one of the most important programs of the federal government."
Ryan and budget Republicans have proposed a slate of 10 budget reforms intended to give the process more teeth. They include reforms such as a line-item presidential veto, and other changes intended to remove accounting gimmicks. "The mere fact that we haven't had a budget as of Tuesday for 1,000 days [in the Senate] is testament to the fact that this system is not working," he said.
"Right now, the budget resolution simply serves as sort of a mere guideline, and unless you actually have legally binding limits and caps on spending, you're not going to cap or limit spending."