If President Obama’s new budget is intended to lure Republicans back into budget talks, particularly with proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare that have already riled up the left, Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t convinced.
“I don’t know if I would say that he cracked the door on entitlement reform,” Ryan told ABC News. “He has proposed to change a statistic, which saves money. That is really not entitlement reform.”
Ryan, who is headlining the annual dinner for pro-life women’s group the Susan B. Anthony List tonight, said he was disappointed by the president’s budget proposal, which he called “status quo.” But asked whether Republicans would offer a compromise that could aggravate conservatives, like giving ground on raising taxes, Ryan said his party has already angered its base.
“The fiscal cliff, I would argue, already did that,” Ryan said. “That wasn’t really popular.”
Ryan, who became one of the leading figures in the Republican Party after being selected as the vice presidential nominee last year, said that he has not ruled out seeking the party’s presidential nomination in 2016. But he said that he was focused on his work in Congress, particularly the nation’s rising debt burdens.
“You never know what comes in the future,” Ryan said.
In a wide-ranging interview, he said he was optimistic that Congress would pass some type of bipartisan immigration reform this year that included strengthening border security, expanding visas for skilled and unskilled workers, and dealing with undocumented immigrants already in the United States “in a realistic way.”
“I have long thought that we have to fix the broken immigration system we have,” Ryan said. “It’s high time we do so.”
With the Senate poised to start voting on its first gun measures of the year, Ryan said he was carefully watching the legislation, particularly the compromise reached on background checks with Senators Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. Ryan and Toomey were elected to Congress at the same time and were roommates on Capitol Hill, but he said he would not automatically follow his lead on guns.
“I don’t give my voting card based on someone’s name. I vote for something if I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ryan said. “We need to take a look at it, while being very respectful of the individual right to bear arms.”
As Republicans try to rebuild their party after failing to win the White House and control of the Senate last year, Ryan said the blame should not be assigned to his former ticket mate, Mitt Romney. But he said Republicans should narrow a “technology gap” with Democrats.
“What we now have to do is not point fingers,” Ryan said, “but look at what went wrong.”