By Joel B. Pollak
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee--and potential running mate of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney--told Breitbart News this week that the party's leaders are "absolutely" committed to repealing Obamacare.
"It would have been nice for the Supreme Court to repeal it for us," he said, "but it's no harder today than it was the day before the decision. We win, we repeal. It's just that simple."
Ryan, speaking exclusively with Breitbart News, added that there was no disagreement about repealing Obamacare among the various Republican leaders, or with the Romney campaign. "Not in any of the meetings I have been having," he said.
Earlier in the week, conservatives criticized apparently conciliatory postures by the Romney campaign and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
McConnell and Romney have since confirmed their commitment to repealing Obamacare as a first priority after the election.
Asked whether Republicans had a plan ready to replace Obamacare, Ryan pointed to several plans that had already been proposed, including his own and that of Rep.Tom Price (R-GA). While there was common agreement on the need for a "patient-centered" system, Ryan said there were "differences of opinion" on the details of an alternative, particularly on the issue of whether to use tax credits to help people buy insurance.
"I don't think those differences will be resolved between now and the election," Ryan said. "There will be a cacophony of ideas." He explained that Republican leaders would introduce reforms one-by-one, following repeal of Obamacare in the 113th Congress.
"We're not the Borg," he quipped, referring to aliens in Star Trek who forcibly assimilate their victims. Asked how Republicans intended to respond to the charge by Democrats and the mainstream media that the party had no clear alternative to Obamacare, Ryan defended the GOP's pluralistic approach.
"I will be talking about my own ideas, and everybody is signed up for things like interstate shopping for insurance policies, tort reform, and ending the discriminatory tax treatment between employers and employees. There is nothing wrong with that. That is not the same as doing nothing," he said.
Ryan did not rule out the possibility that Gov. Romney might unify Republicans around a comprehensive health care alternative that included ideas from various Republican plans, and which would become part of his offer to voters in the November election.
Ryan also noted that he considered Obamacare a tax. "Certainly Chief Justice Roberts seems to think so. I agree with the dissenting judges that he had to re-write the statute to make it a tax. It was written as a penalty. But now, effectively, it is a tax. I guess it is both from the common taxpayers' standpoint--the government making them pay."
On fiscal issues, Ryan pointed to the success of House Republicans in proposing "very specific" plans to reduce the government's deficit and the nation's debt. "People look at Congress and think, "They're all bad.' But House Republicans have presented a budget to deal with the problems. The president demagogued those who tried to lead, and the Senate has walked off the job. If people are demoralized, it's only because Democrats run most of Washington. They will be all the more demoralized if Democrats win again."
Looking back on the budget battles of the past two years, Ryan saw little to regret.
"I don't see the Supercommittee as a failure," he said. "The President worked to make it fail. In the House, we worked hard to pass caps on discretionary spending. That came out of the Supercommittee. We need the president and the Senate to get things done."
Ryan says he does not regret his vote against the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which President Obama established to tackle the debt problem--and then promptly ignored. "Simpson-Bowles would have lulled us into a false sense of security by not dealing with health care entitlements, which are the driver of our debt,
"I want to prevent a European-style austerity approach. Europe put solutions in place that were only temporary--only to find out within a year that they weren't enough. I want to fix the problem fundamentally and comprehensively, right up front the first time."
Earlier this week, Ryan appeared at a press conference with Gov. Scott Walker to mark the fourth anniversary of then-Senator Barack Obama's claim that it was "unpatriotic" for President George W. Bush to add $4 trillion to the nation's debt over his two terms. Obama, in one term, has added $5 trillion to the debt--a new record in scale and pace.
Ryan and fellow Wisconsinites, Gov. Walker and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus, have emerged in the last few years as the new standard-bearers for the party. Ryan remarked: "We're all good friends. We all grew up being educated about the progressive tradition of Wisconsin. We are very familiar with the progressive philosophy, and that's one of the reasons we are who we are. We also believe it's a critical moment for our state and our country to deal with problems before they get out of control.
"We believe we owe the country the right to decide: will we choose a path that will lead to a debt crisis, or reclaim the principles our Founders established?"