WEST CHESTER, Pa. – Paul Ryan was among the 269 House members – including 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats – who voted for last August’s debt ceiling deal, a sweeping compromise that set into motion the $500 billion in automatic defense spending cuts set to take effect beginning in January 2013.
Ryan also declined an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last year to serve on the debt “supercommittee,” the bipartisan 12-member panel tasked with devising a far-reaching debt-reduction deal to avert the defense cuts.
So how does the GOP vice presidential nominee reconcile his support for the debt-ceiling plan with his argument that President Obama is the one to blame for the looming defense cuts, a claim Ryan reiterated Tuesday afternoon at a helicopter museum in this Philadelphia suburb?
Ryan supported the “process” put in place by the debt deal, but not necessarily the substance, a spokesman said Tuesday.
“Chairman Ryan voted for a process for bipartisan deficit reduction,” Ryan spokesman Michael Steel said. “President Obama insisted on these crippling defense cuts and then went AWOL, campaigning full time. He now bears responsibility.”
The debt-ceiling deal passed with the support of more than 60 percent of House and Senate Republicans.
During the talks between congressional leaders and the White House, once it became clear that both sides would not be able to agree on how to achieve their goal of $1.2 trillion in deficit savings before their Aug. 3 deadline, bipartisan negotiators agreed on a process that would delegate the decision-making to a bipartisan supercommittee with a November 2011 deadline. If the committee failed, the $1.2 trillion in deficit savings would be achieved through automatic, across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense spending.
The supercommittee, of course, was unsuccessful, and in its wake, Republicans have sought to blame Obama and congressional Democrats for the looming defense cuts.
In his remarks before an enthusiastic crowd outside the helicopter museum, Ryan went into the issue Tuesday in the greatest level of detail yet on the trail, framing it as a matter of potentially losing as many as 44,000 Pennsylvania-based defense jobs vs. agreeing to a tax increase for small businesses.
“You see, here’s what happened. When these budget negotiations went down the pike, the president insisted that these irresponsible defense cuts be a part of this package,” Ryan said. “Then he insisted, ‘If you want to undo them, we need a trillion-dollar tax increase on successful small businesses.’ So, it’s either lose defense-related jobs in Pennsylvania or put small businesses further at a competitive disadvantage to compete in the global economy and lose small-business jobs.”
“I’ve got a good idea,” he continued. “Why don’t we take away Obama’s job and create jobs for everybody no matter what industry you’re in? That’s a good stimulus project.”
Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said Ryan voted for and spoke favorably of the budget control act.
“Instead of making misleading attacks on the President, he should tell his fellow Congressional Republicans and Mitt Romney to drop their refusal to ask for a single penny from millionaires and billionaires, and work with the President to achieve balanced deficit reduction to avoid these cuts he voted for and is now using to score a political point,” Kanner said.