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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CROWLEY: Joining me now from his home state of Wisconsin is Congressman Paul Ryan.

Welcome, Congressman. Since you are there and you have just recently endorsed Mitt Romney, what's going to happen in the primary Tuesday night?

RYAN: Well, I think he's going to win Wisconsin. But he's taking nothing for granted. He's barnstorming the state, did a town hall meeting yesterday, doing town hall meetings today and the next couple of days. So I feel pretty good about it.

But it's always a close race here in Wisconsin, whether it's the General Election or the primary election.

CROWLEY: So if Mitt Romney beats Rick Santorum, his primary rival right now, in Wisconsin, he won't have the requisite number, 1,144 delegates, but is it for all intents and purposes over if Wisconsin goes for Romney? RYAN: I think so. Yes, I think Rick would need something like 82 percent of the rest of the delegates. That's just not going to happen. So if Mitt wins Wisconsin, and they also have Maryland and D.C. the same day, if he gets a big delegate count, which I think he'll get, then we believe, as conservatives, that we should coalesce around our nominee and focus on the task at hand, which is the fall election, and not drag this thing out, which I think becomes counterproductive.

CROWLEY: Let me talk to you a little bit about -- you know, this is now the time that we all join in our favorite parlor game and talk about the number two on a Romney ticket should he, in fact, clinch this down the line. I know you've said that you, of course, you would listen to an offer or, you know, any kind of discussion about it.

But let me ask you more generally. Usually, the number two on the ticket helps balance out the number one. It sort of fills in the gaps. What kind of number two do you think Mitt Romney needs? What does he need balancing out for -- or of?

RYAN: Whatever he thinks helps him win the fall and helps him govern afterwards.

CROWLEY: Well, what do you think helps him win in the fall?

RYAN: Honestly, I don't know if it's the geography thing. There are a lot of conventional wisdom. What I think matters is, is he putting together the right kind of team to take the right kind of referendum to the country, to offer the country the choice of two futures?

And is he getting somebody who is ready for the job and who can help him govern and deliver upon the reforms in which he's going to campaign on this fall?

So I have no clue who that's going to be, what kind of person or where they come from. It's really -- I don't see the point of speculating on all of that. We have jobs to do where we are. I have a job to do as budget chairman, as a Wisconsin representative. I'm focused on that.

And so let's get this primary taken care of. And then everybody can worry and speculate about the rest of it.

CROWLEY: Would you, for instance -- let me just try one more time on this. Would you, for instance, go for someone who is seen as a little more working class? We know that when President Obama was a candidate and he was selecting a number two, they felt that there was a certain kind of -- he seemed a bit removed from people. And they wanted someone who really spoke to blue collar workers.

Does Mitt Romney need that as well in a number two?

RYAN: You know, I'm really not the political pundit type, Candy. I'm very much of a policy person. I'm focused on doing my job. So it's just not my forte to get into that kind of speculation. Because I'm just busy trying to do my job.

And right now my job is being the congressman for the First Congressional District in Wisconsin, and as budget chairman, trying to prevent a debt crisis from sinking our economy and destroying our children's future. So, honestly, that's what I'm focused on.

So I'm really not the right guy to ask about all those things.

CROWLEY: OK. Then let me talk to you about something you are an expert on, and that is the budget process and the budget. You unveiled -- Republicans unveiled this budget. And I want to speak to you about something that Congressman Steve LaTourette, I know you know him, he's a Republican from Ohio. And here's what he said about the budget process. "I'm tired of passing bills in the House, watching them die in the Senate, and pretending that counts as success. Americans want us to work together like adults, pass a budget with bipartisan support in both houses, and have it signed into law. A partisan budget is not the way to go."

A partisan budget would be your budget, as he describes it. Why did you put out a budget that surely you knew would only pass with Republican votes in the House and would never pass muster in the Senate?

RYAN: Well, it's not going to pass muster in the Senate because the Senate is not going to budget. I mean, Harry Reid already announced, before we even brought our budget out, that he's not going to do a budget this year like he didn't do for the last two years.

He hasn't passed a budget in 1,000 days even though the budget law says we have to do this every year. And the way I look at this, Candy, is...

CROWLEY: Sure, but why not put something out there that they might be able to grab onto?

RYAN: ... what's the problem -- well, we think we did put things in here that they would be able to grab onto. Our Medicare reforms and our tax reforms reflect the emerging bipartisan consensus that has been around for some time, that Democrats in the past have gravitated toward.

So what we're showing in our budget is we believe that the seeds of a bipartisan compromise are there in this budget. The problem we have, Candy, are the Democratic leaders: Senator Reid, President Obama, they're not part of this consensus.

They're out in left field, not being a part of this dialogue, which is occurring between Republicans and Democrats. And so my point is, we need new leadership, new leadership in the Senate and in the White House, to realize this emerging bipartisan consensus and how best to preempt a debt crisis which will sink our economy and destroy our children's future. So we're advancing these ideas.

And then the other point is, we think we should lead with solutions. We think we should say, if there's a problem coming like a debt crisis, what is our specific plan for addressing this debt crisis and dealing with the drivers of our debt?

I love Steve LaTourette, I'm a big fan of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, but unfortunately that budget didn't deal with the drivers of our debt. It keeps "Obama-care" in place. It doesn't deal with Medicare and Medicaid. And as a result of that, we still have a debt crisis.

And so I think we should put solutions that actually fix the problem, and that's what our budget attempts to do.

CROWLEY: You also, in the middle of the unveiling of the budget, criticized the military, essentially kind of accused them of lying about what they really needed. That you wanted to put more money into the military than they said they needed.

I want to read you what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say in The Wall Street Journal, General Martin Dempsey. "There's a difference between having someone say they don't believe what you said versus calling us collectively liars. My response is, I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget."

The military is a little offended by your words.

RYAN: Yes -- no, I really misspoke, to be candid with you, Candy. I didn't mean to make that kind of an impression. So I was clumsy in how I was describing the point I was trying to make. And the point I was trying to make -- and General Dempsey and I spoke after that. And we -- I wanted to give that point to him, which was, that was not what I was attempting to say.

What I was attempting to say is, President Obama put out his budget number for the Pentagon first, $500 billion cut, and then they began the strategy review to conform the budget to meet that number.

We think it should have been the other way around.

RYAN: What is the best strategy for our military and so we have a strategy driven budget. Now the result of our review of the president's budget on the military was we should cut $3 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next 10 years instead of the $500 billion.

And that difference we believe is the difference between getting savings and efficiency out of the Pentagon versus hollowing out our military, short-changing our Navy, our Air Force, stretching our Guard and Reserves too fast. And so we just believe that what we got from the White House was more of a budget driven strategy, not a strategy driven budget. And I did not mean to impugn the...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: ...military anyway and I misspoke on that front.

CROWLEY: Have you apologized to him?

RYAN: Yeah, I called him to -- told him that.

CROWLEY: OK

RYAN: Yeah.

CROWLEY: So finally in your state -- just some state business here, your governor, Scott Walker is up for a recall because of some of the ideas that he put in, in budgeting for the state of Wisconsin. If he loses that recall, it will look very much and certainly it will be translated as a repudiation of conservatism and efforts to cut the budget. Would you buy into that analysis?

RYAN: Yeah, I do. I think it's a momentum causing event one way or the other. I don't think Scott's going to lose the recall, by the way. But it will cause the momentum like you discussed I think here in Wisconsin. And what will happen is, politicians will no longer be courageous if this is what happens to them. They'll no longer take on the drivers of their debt and the root causes of their state or federal problems if this is what you get. What Scott did was, he said I'm going to reform the budget in structural ways if I get elected.

Then he got elected. Then he did it. I talked to a school district superintendent the other day who saved $1.6 million just by allowing open bidding on health insurance instead of having the union, you know plan which was required, a monopoly plan in collective bargaining. She put new reforms in her school district that gets teachers in the classroom and -- and reforms the education system. So I think as people in Wisconsin realize that these reforms are working really well, I think he's going to be vindicated. And I think the momentum is going to be rewarding those politicians who take on these tough issues.

CROWLEY: We will talk to you again in June after that recall vote. Thank you so much Congressman Paul Ryan, appreciate your time. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says this is an urgent moment for Syria. She talks about what the U.S. and other countries are doing to force an end to the Syrian government's deadly crackdown, next.

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