'This Week' Exclusive: Rep. Paul Ryan

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan on budget battles and immigration.
10:22 | 02/17/13

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Transcript for 'This Week' Exclusive: Rep. Paul Ryan
Thanks so much for having me. In a "this week" exclusive congressman paul ryan joins us from janesville, wisconsin. Congressman ryan, thanks for coming to the show. Hey, good morning, jonathan. I want to get right to this marco rubio's comments. Just last week you said that the president deserved credit for not politicizing the immigration issue. You thought that was a good sign. Do you still believe that? Actually I don't, and i really don't enjoy saying this. I did think that his words were measured and productive in the state of the union. But putting this -- leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction. Look, the question that we always have to ask ourselves, particularly with this white house, is the president looking for a partisan advantage, or is he looking for a bipartisan law? And by putting these details out without a guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantage to those who cut in front of line for immigrants who came here legally, not dealing with border security adequately, that tells us that he's looking for a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution. There are groups in the house and the senate working together to get this done, and when he does things like this, it makes thuch more difficult to do that, and that's why I think this particular move, very counterproductive. But let's be clear. You have said that you would support an immigration bill that included a pathway for citizenship, correct? Yes, look, absolutely because we think that's -- there's a way to do this through earned legalization without rewarding people for having come in with undocumented status illegally. We don't want to give them an advantage over those who came here legally, and we think there's a way to do this while still respecting the rule of law. It's clear that what the president is talking about does not do that. I have a long record of immigration reform. I'm not a johnny-come-lately on this issue. We've always believed there is a way of doing it while respecting the rule of law. That's the delicate balance that needs to be achieved for this to be bipartisan and the president on most of these issues and this one now, like the others, seems to be looking for a partisan advantage and not bringing the parties together. Well, let's get to the biggest other issue out there right now which is these automatic spending cuts. You've been pretty clear. You've predicted for some time that you think this so-called sequester is going to happen. Let me ask you this, congress is now on recess for ten days, the president is playing golf in florida this weekend. Is there really any effort underway to try to avert these cuts right now? Are you even trying? There have been from the house republicans. Let's take a step back. Don't forget it's the president that proposed the sequester and it's the president who designed sequester and the house republicans who twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with smarter cuts in other areas of government. Okay. It hasn't passed a bill -- the president gave a speech showing he'd like to replace it, but he hasn't put any details out there. That's why I conclude it will take place but take a step back. We are here because the president back in the last session of congress refused to cut spending in any place and therefore we wound up with the sequester. Congressman, I've heard you say this in a talking point for republicans for a long time. This was the president's idea on and on and on but let's look at your own words. What you said right after the law putting this in place was passed in august of 2011. These are your words you said "what conservatives like me have been fighting for for years are statutory caps on spending, literally legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money and if they breach that amount across the board sequester comes in to cut that spending. You can't turn it out without a supermajority. We got that into law." Now, it sounds to me there like if you weren't taking credit for the idea of the sequester, you were certainly suggesting it was a good idea. So those are the budget caps on discretionary spending. Those occurred. We want those. Everybody wants budget caps. The sequester that we're talking about now is bac up the super committee. Remember the super committee in addition to those caps was supposed to come up with 1.2 trillion in savings. The republicans on the super committee offered even higher revenues in exchange for spending cuts as part of that. It was rejected byresident and the democrats. So no resolution occurred and therefore the sequester is occurring, and what we've always said is, let's cut spending in smarter ways to replace this sequester. We passed two bills doing that and we've heard nothing in response from the senate democrats or the president. Now -- we didn't pass anything and the point I'm trying to say is, when you had no budget passing the senate for four years, when the president is going to be about a month late in proposing his budget, there's no leadership on the other side of the aisle and therefore no agreement. Now, wait a minute. Two points. First of all, actually house republicans have not acted in this congress. You know, you did in the last congress those bills are dead. No, in this congress -- so why haven't you -- we passed it again, right. So now -- please say that again. Well, now we have the senate democrats on friday did come out with a plan to replace these cuts. It's half spending cuts and half tax revenue increases. What do you make of that democratic plan? Well, first of all, I'd be curious to see if they could actually pass that, number one. Number two, the president got his tax increases last year. He got those higher revenues. He was able to tax higher income individuals. But taking tax loopholes, what we've always advocated are necessary for tax reform means you're going to close loopholes to fuel more spending not reform the tax code. What is the goal we're trying to achieve here, we want economic growth, job creation, we want people to go back to work. We want to preebt crisis from hurting those who are the most vulnerable in society from giving us a european-like economy. In order to do that you've got to get the debt and deficit in control and grow the economy. So if you take tax loopholes to fuel more spending which is what they're proposing then you're preventing tax reform which we think is necessary to end crony capitalism. So that's why we think we need to cut spending to pay for this. But your bottom line. Yes, our bottom line is to cut spending to pay for this. You're saying no tax increases, period, to pay for this? That's right. That's right because revenues, loopholes are necessary for tax reform. If you take them for spending, you're blocking tax reforms and you're really not getting the deficit under control. Okay, now, the next big thing here is you -- the speaker has said you would come out with a balanced budget that's going to balance the budget in ten years. Your last budget didn't balance until well after 2030, so this is a big, new step. Some in your own party are a little worried about this. Mike simpson, republican congressman from idaho said "we are saying a ten-year balance. That's tougher than the last ryan budget. There could be a significant number of republicans that say, 'i'm not going there because it would be too dramatic'." How are you going to balance the budget in ten years? What further things are you going to cut that you didn't last time? Well, we'll show you when we finish writing the budget. We haven't literally finished writing it. We've just begun because we just now got our baseline, so I can't answer the question since it's not a complete task, but I'm very comfortable with the fact that we will pass this. I'm very comfortable with the fact that we will produce a budget that balances. Our last budget balanced. It just balanced a little later. This one will balance on time because we have new numbers to work with from the congressional budget office that I think will make it easier for us to balance and, look, the point also is this, we're producing a budget. We're going to be passing a budget. The senate hasn't passed a budget for four years. The president has never proposed ever to ever balance the budget. That's wrong the reason we want to do this is not simply to make numbers add up. We want to prevent a debt crisis. We want to grow the economy and we want to get people back to work in society, and if we have a debt crisis, that is bad for our economy today. Okay. Let's never forget we're robbing from future generations. We're almost out of time. I got to ask you about this new effort from karl rove to weed out what he's calling problem candidates and republican primaries. One conservative talk radio host said of this effort "we are now at the point where you are almost better off in the republican party being endorsed by barack obama than karl rove. He is the reverse midas." Now, I mig note, by the way, that karl rove has recently called you one of the most remarkable talents in america. But putting that aside, do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing to have a, you know, big washington power broker trying to get in there and meddle in republican primaries? You know what, jon, I don't even pay attention to this stuff. I'm too busy trying to do my job and I'm too busy trying to put together a budget that balances to create opportunity, to get bipartisan immigration reform. I really don't pay attention to this so I have no thoughts on the matter whatsoever. No thoughts whatsoever. Okay, before you go, you know i have to ask you about your future. There was an article in politico by my friends mike allen and jim vandehei about your political future saying you are less inclined to run for president. And this quote caught my eye "paul will never say he's not running for president because the constant speculation carries too many advantages, said a longtime friend. He will keep answering the questions in a way that will keep nosy political reporters interested." Now, congressman, at risk of being a nosy political reporter here, is it true, are you considerably less likely now to run for president in 2016? Actually, jonathan, you've known me a long time, and the one thing you know about me is i don't play that game. I don't talk like that, so when you see these articles that are really not accurate, that's par for the course in washington days. The point is this, I think the most important thing for me to do is do my job representing the first district of wisconsin, trying to prevent a debt crisis helping get a solution to the economy, to jobs, to getting our deficit and debt under control. That to me is my first priority. That's what I'm focused on. Will I or won't i? I don't know. I literally do not know the answer to these questions about what is the best role for me to play to fix these problems for our country in the future. The point is I don't know the answer because I'm just not putting a great deal of thought into it. I'm not for closing any opportunity. I may or I may not. I just don't know because right now we just had an election. We've got jobs to do. What bothers me is this personal campaign the president has us in. We need to start thinking about doing our jobs after the elections than thinking about the next election. All right. The problem we have in washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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