Congressman Paul Ryan sees narrower focus for new budget talks

WASHINGTON Thu Oct 24, 2013 3:53pm EDT

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) smiles and talks with fellow House Republicans as they arrive for meetings at the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Washington October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) smiles and talks with fellow House Republicans as they arrive for meetings at the Republican National Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Washington October 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new round of budget negotiations starting next week should focus more narrowly on replacing automatic spending cuts rather than attempt to reach an elusive "grand bargain," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said on Thursday.

Ryan told Reuters in an interview that reduced expectations could make the talks more successful than past efforts, such as the failure of the 2011 "supercommittee" to find $1.2 trillion in savings.

"My hope is that it has a better chance because we'll set more rational expectations of what we're setting out to achieve," said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican.

"If we focused on doing some big grand bargain, like those prior efforts ... then I don't think we'll be successful because we'll focus on our differences. Each party will demand that the other compromises a core principle and then we'll get nothing done."

Ryan, who will lead Republicans on the 29-member negotiating panel that convenes on October 30, said there is a better chance of finding common ground with Democrats on "smarter" spending cuts to replace the across-the-board reductions to discretionary spending. He said these include reductions and reforms to expensive federal benefits programs known as entitlements, such as Social Security, Medicare and some farm subsidy programs.

He noted that President Barack Obama has proposed some entitlement changes, such as a lower inflation gauge for the Social Security retirement program's cost-of-living increases. His Democratic counterpart, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, also has proposed some ways to reduce healthcare costs.

And both parties want to mitigate the sequester's impact, especially with another $109 billion round of cuts due to launch on January 15 - the same date that the latest stopgap spending extension ends. Military programs favored by Republicans would bear more than half of those cuts.

Ryan reiterated his long-standing opposition to any further tax revenue increases as part of the budget negotiations, saying that a major tax hike for the wealthiest Americans in January was already hurting the economy.

Top Democrats on the negotiating panel say that proposals such as the cost-of-living change or charging wealthier seniors more for their Medicare healthcare coverage will not be offered unless Republicans are willing to raise revenue from elimination of some tax breaks.

"If people see this conference as an excuse to raise taxes, I don't think it's going to be successful," he said.

If the two sides remain at loggerheads over revenues and entitlement cuts, then he said the sequester cuts will simply remain in place.

"It's not our preferred route to reducing deficit and spending, but it works," he said. "If we can't replace these spending cuts with smarter spending cuts, then we'll take what we have."

He also said that he believes that the panel can help ease some sequester pain on federal agencies and the military by offering them more flexibility to spend their reduced budgets more effectively.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Beech)

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Comments (10)
brotherkenny4 wrote:
The guys with the money who preselect the candidates we get a chance to vote for told the teabaggers not to destroy the country, and so their rhetoric is more subdued. You know, not that the business guys didn’t want to push the american people deeper into a hole, but they themselves (the business monsters) would have been affected financially by not allowing a spending cap increase and a CR. So what fake threat do the teabaggers have now? They and their business a-hole masters tried their best to get the dems to capitulate and they didn’t. So what else can they threaten to destroy? They have nothing. In fact, we have the knowledge now that they cannot tolerate a turn down in the economy, they are afraid of not getting a bigger pile of cash. You would think that a person once a multi-millionaire would not be so fearful of such a minor set back for themselves, but they have shown us, right there in broad daylight, that they fear not becoming wealthier. Indeed, they have also shown that they have no real convictions, because they would not accept any loss of money for what they believe in. I guess it’s true, they believe in money and nothing else. And, their political flunkies, they also have no convictions, because even despite their insane rhetoric about doing this for the country, they did what they were told by the suppliers of campaign funds, their masters.

Oct 24, 2013 3:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Nice when your House Budget Committee Chairman starts the process off by saying he shouldn’t be expected to do his job. Obama’s got an awful lot of the chips now, but I think these clowns will be pleasantly surprised with his version of a grand bargain.

Oct 24, 2013 3:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SanPa wrote:
Ryan might be right about the tactic, but there needs to be strategy in these discussions. The deficit can only be successfully tamed through tax increases and subsidy spending cuts. As long as one party digs in its heals on taxation, there will be zero progress on the deficit … and seriously, the deficit is the accumulated effect of years of tax cuts.

Oct 24, 2013 3:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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