WEST CHESTER, Pa. – Standing next to two Sikorski helicopters, Paul Ryan had the perfect setting to talk about the looming issue of $500 billion in defense cuts, also known as sequestration, blaming the president for the cuts.
“President Obama’s reckless defense cuts that are hanging over our cloud, hanging over the horizon, could put almost 44,000 jobs at stake right here in Pennsylvania. We are not going to let that happen,” Ryan said to thousands of people at the American Helicopter Museum.
Ryan cited his Pennsylvania colleagues in Congress as well as “national defense” being “the first priority of the federal government” as reasons sequestration won’t happen.
“We already passed spending cuts and other wasteful parts of government to replace those irresponsible and devastating cuts of the president through his lack of leadership is promising will occur,” Ryan said. “You see, here is what happens. When these budget negotiations went down the pike, the president insisted that these irresponsible defense cuts be a part of this package. Then, he insisted if you want to undo them, we need a trillion dollar tax increase on successful small businesses. So you either lose defense jobs in Pennsylvania or put small businesses further in a competitive disadvantage to compete in the global economy and lose small business jobs.
“I’ve got a good idea,” he added. “Why don’t we take away President Obama’s job and create jobs for everybody no matter what industry they are in. That’s a good stimulus project.”
The vice presidential candidate simplified the reasons behind the cuts, which are part of a political battle that began brewing last summer. They are mandated by the Budget Control Act, which was signed into law last August by President Obama in exchange for a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt limit.
House Speaker John Boehner insisted that any increase in the debt limit be matched dollar-for-dollar in spending cuts and reforms, but as the federal government ran critically low on cash, Congress had only agreed to about $1.2 trillion in savings. Still, the debt limit was increased under an agreement that called on a “supercommittee” to negotiate an additional $1.2 trillion in savings, or face sequestration – meaning the automatic cuts that include those defense cuts and items unpalatable to each party.
After the supercommittee failed to strike a deal, the country was left with sequestration. The Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, has warned what the cuts would mean for the military.
Romney has also hit the president over the cuts on the campaign trail.
At his Pennsylvania campaign events today, Ryan never mentioned his embattled house colleague, Todd Akin, or the firestorm around his comments on rape and abortion. ABC News learned Ryan did call Akin Monday, but an explicit “get out of the race” message was not conveyed.
That changed Tuesday afternoon, when the top of the ticket put out a statement clearly stating Akin should “exit the race.” Ryan’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said “the congressman agrees with the governor.”
In a clear indication that those statements won’t end Democratic efforts to align the GOP ticket with Akin, a plane flew overhead at the Ryan rally pulling an airborne sign just before Ryan arrived and right after he left. “Romney Ryan Akin — Wrong for Women,” read the sign.
Dressed in a blue polo shirt and khakis, Ryan also struck a populist tone at the rally, hitting both Republicans and Democrats while talking about the “you didn’t build that” line of attack that has been the Republicans’ focus since the president uttered the words last month in reference to government help for small businesses.
“It reveals this side of a government-centered society, of an economy driven by government; it reveals this idea that we need to tax more money from families and small business,” Ryan said. “Take that money to Washington and then spread it around to your cronies. … Look, Republicans have been guilty of this in the past, as well. Let’s not forget that both political parties touched this idea of getting Washington to pick winners and losers in the economy.”
Pennsylvania hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, but the GOP is hoping to turn the state red in November. Ryan spent the day campaigning in West Chester and Carnegie, Pa.
Ryan will hold a fundraiser in the heavily Democratic city of Philadelphia this evening.