WARREN, Ohio — At a campaign stop at a northeast Ohio hot dog joint Thursday afternoon, Paul Ryan defended his and Mitt Romney’s claim that President Obama “raided” $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the national health-care law.
Ryan’s budget blueprint includes virtually all of the same Medicare savings as Obama’s health-care overhaul does. The GOP vice presidential nominee deflected the criticism Thursday by arguing that the $716 billion in Medicare savings were part of the budget baseline used by House Republicans in drafting their 2012 budget blueprint, and that Republicans would never have sought those cuts in the first place.
“You’re criticizing President Obama right now for taking money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan was told by Chris Moody of Yahoo!, who is celebrating his birthday Thursday and was invited by Ryan to a hot dog at the Hot Dog Shoppe, a local landmark known for its chili dogs and fries.
“But your budget plan includes those cuts,” Moody continued. “What’s your response to that?”
“First of all, those are in the baseline, he put those cuts in,” responded Ryan (R), who has yet to formally take any questions from reporters in the six days since he was tapped to serve as Romney’s running mate.
“Second of all,” he continued, “we voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly, including those cuts. I voted that way before the budget, I voted that way after the budget. So when you repeal all of Obamacare, what you end up doing is that repeals that as well. In our budget, we’ve restored a lot of that. It gets a little wonky, but it was already in the baseline.”
He added that Republicans “never would have done it in the first place.”
“We voted to repeal the whole bill,” he said. “I just don’t think the president’s going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.”
Ryan’s visit to the 1950s-style diner came as his plan to overhaul Medicare has become a focal point of the campaign. Republicans have returned fire by arguing that through the national health-care law, Obama has made cuts to Medicare that will be passed on to beneficiaries, an argument that Democrats refute.
The Hot Dog Shoppe is a local favorite; it features a giant rotating hot dog on its roof and a marquee that offers inspirational advice for passers-by.
Thursday’s marquee: “The Highest Knowledge is the Knowledge of God.”
“I’m just here to get some dogs,” Ryan, a former Oscar Meyer Weinermobile driver, said as he entered the packed diner. He ordered two hot dogs and chili cheese fries.
He made his way around the shop and shook hands with dozens of patrons, then sat down at a booth with two men and Moody, who proceeded to ask the candidate about Medicare.
He told one mother with a child in a stroller that she had a “handsome kid,” then gave her a little bit of advice about how to keep the child’s pacifier from tumbling away.
“You get a little Velcro thing here and you clip it to his shirt so when he spits it out, it doesn’t go flying everywhere,” Ryan said. “That worked for us.”
A girl approached Ryan and asked him to autograph her baseball. Ryan called over to his personal aide, Jake Kastan, for a pen, but the girl’s mother had come prepared with a Sharpie marker.
“You happen to have a Sharpie and a baseball?” Ryan asked.
“All the time,” the woman said.