FRESNO, Calif., Sept. 9, 2012— -- Paul Ryan was challenged in an interview that aired today for being part of a group of Republicans and Democrats who agreed to a deal last summer that included automatic cuts to defense spending in exchange for the debt ceiling being raised.
His running mate, Mitt Romney, said it was a "big mistake" for Republicans, like Ryan, to agree to the deal in a different interview that aired today on NBC's "Meet the Press."
On CBS's "Face the Nation," Ryan admitted to being part of the bipartisan "super-committee" that voted for the cuts and defended why he voted for it.
"You know why I voted for it? Because I was working to find common ground with Democrats to get a down payment on deficit reduction," Ryan told Norah O'Donnell in an interview that was taped Saturday. "I worked with President Obama to find common ground to get a down payment on deficit reduction. It wasn't a big down payment, but it was a step in the right direction.
"Here's the issue: Bob Woodward just wrote this in his book -- the devastating defense cuts that are now coming due were insisted upon by the Obama administration so they would not have to face another debt ceiling increase before the election," he said.
In Bob Woodward's new book, "The Price of Politics" set to be released this week, he reports that it was White House officials who believed the prospect of massive defense cuts would make Republicans agree to deficit cuts known as the "grand bargain."
The House Budget Chairman also defended his vote by mentioning the legislation he put forward in May 2012 that would replace the $500 billion in defense cuts known as the sequester.
O'Donnell mentioned that after Ryan voted for the cuts, known as the Budget Control Act, Ryan put out a statement calling it a "victory" and a "positive step forward."
Since Ryan was tapped to be the GOP vice presidential candidate he has consistently railed against the president for what he calls the "reckless" and "devastating" defense cuts, without mentioning that he actually voted for them. He often uses language like "they," including in his speech to the Republican National Convention two weeks ago.
"He (Obama) created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing," Ryan said in his speech, not mentioning he was part of that bipartisan commission.
In the interview, Ryan continued to defend his vote saying he "voted for a mechanism that says a sequester would occur if we don't cut $1.2 trillion in spending in government" and accused the president and the Senate of doing "nothing" to prevent the cuts.
"We offered $1.2 trillion in various -- the super-committee offered it," Ryan said. "We passed, in the House, a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere. The Senate's done nothing. President Obama's done nothing.
"I wrote another bill, passed it, got it signed into law, Democrats supported us, for President Obama, if he's not going to help us with a plan to prevent those defense cuts by substituting them with cuts from elsewhere, what's his plan for the sequester?" he said. "He's ignoring the law."
Ryan has consistently simplified the issue on the campaign trail, but the cuts 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 the bipartisan "super-committee" 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 super-committee failed to strike a deal, the country was left with sequestration. The Obama administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have warned what the cuts would mean for the military.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said the two Repubican running mates contradicted each other in their separate interviews on the issue of sequestration.
"The fact remains that we could prevent the automatic defense cuts if Congressional Republicans drop their refusal to ask for another dime from millionaires and billionaires," Smith said in a statement.
The Wisconsin congressman is spending the day gearing up for his debate with Vice President Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 11. He's in what has been described as a "remote" part of Oregon where he was expected to do prep all day, aside from a short break to watch his Green Bay Packers.