Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appeared on two Sunday shows, talking mostly about his budget, which is in many respects the same as the budget of the GOP’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney.

On Face the Nation, Ryan defended his budget, touting his debt reduction plan and tax reform and going after the president’s 15-person Independent Payment Advisory Board:

In response to the accusation that he is hurting the poor, he made the case that Medicaid spending will still go up and give governors necessary flexibility. Note that he asserted that Romney is “absolutely” the fiscal conservative and was emphatic that Romney will enact this kind of plan.

Ryan made similar comments on Fox News Sunday. In explaining the difference between the House Republicans’ Medicare reform plan and the president’s, he told Chris Wallace:

Medicare grows at the same — under our budget as it does under Obamacare. Here is the key critical difference: the president’s health care puts 15 bureaucrats in charge of Medicare. We put 50 million seniors in charge of their Medicare. He is putting these bureaucrats, unelected, unaccountable, in charge of price controlling, which leads to denied care for seniors. We are saying get rid of the health care law, stop putting this rationing board in charge of current seniors health care, give them the guaranteed benefits that they organize their lives around. Don’t change their benefits for anyone in and near retirement.

But in order to make good on that promise, which is becoming a broken promise on the status quo, you have to reform for the next generation. And there’s a bipartisan consensus on how best to reform it. And that’s what we include in our bill. We save and strengthen the program.

The current law makes it go bankrupt and puts this board of 15 bureaucrats in charge of price controlling which will lead to denied care for current seniors.

And while not willing to say his own state’s April 3 presidential primary is irrelevant, he said that Romney is “becoming the prohibitive front-runner. And I think the sooner we coalesce around the nominee, the better off we’re going to be, because, you know, the prize is November, not this summer.” He again left open the possibility of a Romney-Ryan ticket.

In a real sense, Ryan has placed fiscal conservatives who still grumble that Romney is not bold or conservative enough in a bind. If they celebrate Ryan’s budget, as many do, how do they brush off Romney’s virtually identical agenda? If Ryan is courageous, how can Romney be timid? If Ryan is moving to a pro-growth economic plan, isn’t Romney doing the same?

Yuval Levin, in praising Ryan’s budget, explains:

The Ryan proposal would provide level funding for defense — not increasing the budget, but also not slashing it by half a trillion dollars while expecting the military to defend America’s interests in a dangerous time and leaving the real causes of our budget crisis untouched. . . .
The Ryan budget contends that [Obama’s] tax increases would be damaging to economic growth at a time when dynamism is badly needed, and pursues instead an aggressive pro-growth tax reform — consolidating today’s six personal income-tax brackets into just two (with rates of 10 percent and 25 percent), reducing the corporate rate to 25 percent, and broadening the tax base by curbing deductions, credits, and other so-called tax expenditures. . . .
Third, President Obama’s budget proposes simply to pump more money into our existing safety-net programs, which have been growing uncontrollably in recent years, while the Ryan budget seeks to modernize them to improve their effectiveness and reduce their costs. . . .

Ryan proposes a much-needed reform of Medicaid — ending the open-ended federal/state funding structure that creates an enormous incentive for overspending and transforming the program into a federal block grant that would allow states the flexibility to pursue greater efficiency and provide more options to the poor. And most important, he proposes to transform Medicare into a premium-support program — and in a way that draws an even more effective contrast with Obama’s approach than last year’s Republican budget did.

Nearly the same comments could be made about Romney’s tax, spending and entitlement reform plans as well as his defense spending agenda. That Ryan praises Romney as a fiscal conservative and seems amenable to serving as his V.P. should be further solace to conservatives. Conservatives have a choice, it seems: Praise Ryan and give Romney credit as well, or deem them both to be insufficiently bold on conservative reform. It’s simply not logically possible to praise Ryan’s plan and deride Romney’s agenda.