ABC News Exclusive: Rep. Ryan Stands His Ground on Medicare Reform

House budget chairman says he'll be "fine" if he loses his seat.

ByABC News
May 25, 2011, 8:01 PM

May 26, 2011 -- Rep. Paul Ryan is doubling down. In the wake of Tuesday's stunning Republican defeat in New York special Congressional election, the Republican House Budget Chairman says he is determined to fight for his Medicare plan even if it ruins his political career.

"I don't care about that," Ryan said in an interview on the Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. "Now is not that time to be worried about political careers. Sincerely, I will be fine if I lose my House seat because you know what? I will know I did what I thought was right to save this country from fiscal ruin."

In fact, Ryan, R-Wis., tells ABC News that Republicans should be fighting for his Medicare plan as part of the current talks with the White House over raising the debt ceiling.

"It is part of these debt ceiling talks," Ryan said. "We're the ones who actually put the specifics on the table -- $6.2 trillion in savings over the next ten years. We put a budget up -- we passed a budget, brought it to the table. Where are we now? It's been 754 days since the Senate Democrats proposed, yet alone, passed a budget. They're not offering any solutions, putting nothing on the table."

Ryan's plan would replace the current Medicare program with a program that allows seniors to choose from a menu of government-subsidized private insurance plans. The changes would not go into effect until the year 2021 and would not affect anybody who is now over age 55.

The plan was a major issue in Tuesday's special election in the solidly Republican 26th Congressional District of New York. Republican Jane Corwin supported Ryan's plan; Democrat Kathy Hochu prevailed after attacking the plan as an attempt to destroy Medicare. A third candidate running as a "Tea Party" candidate was also a factor, likely siphoning Republican votes.

Does Paul Ryan feel any responsibility for the stunning Republican defeat in the New York special Congressional election on Tuesday?

Not at all.

"The president and his party, they basically decided to medi-scare. They decided to shamelessly demagogue and distort what we're proposing to try and scare seniors to get votes," Ryan said. "It did work to scare seniors. Now I believe that in a year and a half time that we have, that facts are going to get out and people are going to understand this problem."

Even so, Ryan says it is too late for Republicans to run away from his plan.

"This is not the time to go wobbly," Ryan said, channeling former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. "They're going to run these attack ads at us regardless. This is time for leaders to be leaders."

House Republicans overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ryan's plan and now may pay a political price. I asked Ryan if he thought their support of his budget plan would cost Republicans the House. He said he felt confident voters would in fact reward, not punish the Republicans.

"I think we were elected in this last election to take a stand on fixing this country's fiscal problems, to go after spending, to solve this debt crisis, to stop spending money we don't have," Ryan said.