Ryan wants ‘modest’ entitlement, tax code reform

October 9, 2013
Paul Ryan (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Paul Ryan (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

In a new op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says current budget and debt ceiling negotiations should focus on entitlement and tax code reform.

Ryan, who has thus far been relatively quiet in the budget debates (given his status as House Budget Committee chairman), appears to be seeking some middle ground between the GOP's insistence on Obamacare reforms and the White House's no-negotiation stance.

In fact, Ryan only make a passing reference to "a complete rethinking of government's approach to health care" -- something he says could be accomplished later.

"We have an opportunity here to pay down the national debt and jump-start the economy, if we start talking, and talking specifics, now," Ryan wrote. "To break the deadlock, both sides should agree to common-sense reforms of the country's entitlement programs and tax code."

Ryan noted that the budget deficit is projected to grow over the next decade and suggests some specific changes.

"We could ask the better off to pay higher premiums for Medicare," he said. "We could reform Medigap plans to encourage efficiency and reduce costs. And we could ask federal employees to contribute more to their own retirement."

Notably absent from that list: Ryan's previous proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program -- something Democrats pillories him for when he was the GOP's vice presidential nominee last year.

Ryan says his proposal doesn't constitute a "grand bargain."

"But right now, we need to find common ground," he said. "We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today—and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow. So let's negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code."

In order for any of this to happen, though, Ryan notes that President Obama has to "come to the table."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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