OTR Interviews

The Ryan budget plan and a tale of two parties

Rep. Paul Ryan discusses his budget plan, its different fates in the House and full Congress and what it says about the two parties


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A sharply divided House passes Congressman Paul Ryan's $3.5 trillion budget. As you probably guessed, the vote was mostly along party lines. And the burning question -- will the Senate now jump into action and take up the Ryan budget plan? Our thought: Don't hold your breath. The Senate hasn't passed a budget for three years.

And we spoke with House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan earlier tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, today your budget, the Republican budget in the House, passed, right?

RYAN: We did.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you do?

RYAN: We did great. We did very good vote count. We're really happy with it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you lose any Republicans?

RYAN: We lost a few Republicans, but pretty much what we expected. We had an extremely good vote count, very unanimous, you know, party consensus, I would say. And we're really happy with the outcome.

VAN SUSTEREN: Draw any Democrats?


VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right, now, this is for what period of time, this new budget?

RYAN: So every year, the Budget Act requires by April 15th the House and the Senate pass their budget. It's this year's budget and the budget lasts for 10 years. So it's your map of what the country should do fiscally for the next 10 years. And we update that vision every year. That's the way the Budget Act does -- it calls for. That's what we did. Unfortunately, the Senate, as you know -- they haven't done it for three years now.

VAN SUSTEREN: So your budget will go over to the Senate, essentially, for the Senate to consider, and it's pretty much dead on arrival.

RYAN: Yes. The way it's supposed to work is the House passes its budget and the Senate's supposed to pass theirs. And then we reconcile the differences and then bring that conference report back to the House and the Senate to pass jointly, and then proceed to implement it. But if any of those stages is disrupted, meaning they don't occur, then the entire process stops. No budget occurs.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. The president has a budget.

RYAN: He does have a budget, and the law requires that he submits a budget. He did that.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the only one who doesn't have the budget, the only one who's not playing, putting any cards on the table, is the Senate.

RYAN: That's right. That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any explanation for that?

RYAN: No. They -- basically -- I don't think they want to show the country just the kind of taxes you would have to raise to implement their budget, to implement their vision.

The president gave us a budget that has net spending increases. The president gave us a budget that has a $2 trillion tax increase. It never, ever, ever balances the budget. He chooses to completely ignore the drivers of our debt, which means we're going to have a debt crisis under the president's budget. And I don't think they want to follow suit with a similar budget because that just shows that all Democrats in Washington are supposedly complicit with the debt crisis.

We see things differently. We think we're on the wrong track. We think the president is bringing us toward a debt crisis by not acting and taking responsibility for this problem. And so we're acting. We're passing a budget. We're showing the country specifically how we would fix this mess we are in fiscally, how we would grow the economy, reform the tax code, save Medicare, get spending under control and get our debt paid off.

VAN SUSTEREN: At least, though, the president will, quote, "play." I mean, at least he has a budget so that you can negotiate and debate...

RYAN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and can argue. The Senate has essentially almost a pocket veto. The Senate, by not having a...

RYAN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... budget, actually stops any discussion, right?

RYAN: Yes. So -- so the conversation we're having right now is the president's plan and the House Republicans' plan. There's not a third player in this, meaning the Senate Democrats. So all we have to look at is what the president has proposed for his budget, which is, you know, four years of budgeting, he's given us four budgets, four trillion-dollar deficits. And under the president's own budget, he shows the debt exploding.


RYAN: We're showing how the debt gets paid off.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, but -- but the give-and-take that we have in Washington is essentially stopped without the Senate...

RYAN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... without (INAUDIBLE) So the Senate has stopped this. Do you think the president and the Senate are sort of on the same -- are they conspiring against you?

RYAN: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: Or do you think the president wants the Senate to have a budget?

RYAN: Our government hasn't passed a budget since 2009. Now, what was 2009? What was going on then that we don't have now? Harry Reid, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi ran all of government. Nancy Pelosi is not the speaker of the House anymore, John Boehner is. The Republicans are in charge of the House.

So they would have to negotiate with Republicans if they want to pass a budget and actually get a budget into law. They're not willing to do that because they got their vision in 2009 passed. And so we're still living under that 2009 Obama/Pelosi/Reid budget, which carries on for 10 years, and we're still underneath that, implement "Obama care," do the stimulus, have the tax increases kick in in January. All of those things are coming into law now, and that's the budget we're still living under.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Is there any difference between your budget this year that was just passed and the one last year, besides the fact that numbers just somewhat increased in little bit? Is there anything, like, the programs themselves...

RYAN: Sure. We added some components to the Medicare reform plan that have now enjoyed some bipartisan support. For instance, in the premium support system, which younger people get when they turn Medicare- eligible, 54 and below, they'll have a traditional Medicare program option along with the guaranteed coverage options they have to choose from.

What we do in our budget is we get rid of "Obama care," its cuts to Medicare that are used to spend on other government programs. We keep that money to make Medicare solvent. We get rid of the board of 15 bureaucrats that are in charge of price-controlling Medicare. And we leave Medicare intact for everybody who's 55 and above. And -- but the change is you now have a traditional government option with that new benefit for those younger people...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me see if I understand -- just to make sure I understand. So if you are 55 and over, nothing changes for you.

RYAN: Nothing changes. That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Absolutely nothing in terms of Medicare.

RYAN: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you are under the age of 55, it is -- there are -- it is different.

RYAN: Yes. It's a plan like the one we have in Congress. You get a choice of guaranteed coverage options. And among those options is the traditional Medicare program you can choose from, and Medicare subsidizes your premiums based on who you are, more if you're poor and sick, less if you're wealthy.

The key is this, Greta. Medicare's going bankrupt. And if we want to keep the commitment to current seniors, the one that they made their -- organized their lives around, their retirements around, you must reform it for us younger generation in order to cash-flow the commitment for the current generation.

That's what we're doing because if we have a debt crisis, if Medicare goes bankrupt, then everybody gets hurt, including current seniors, and we want to avoid that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, somebody's got to get cut in this. I mean, you can't -- you can't...

RYAN: We've cut $5.3 trillion...


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, so who's getting in this? I mean...

RYAN: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... who's going to -- who's going to be unhappy with this?

RYAN: Every government agency across the board gets cut. We take money from the Pentagon, from that budget...

VAN SUSTEREN: How much? What...

RYAN: We take $300 billion off the Pentagon's base budget that they proposed last year.

VAN SUSTEREN: And how does that compare to the...

RYAN: The president's budget?

VAN SUSTEREN: ... the president's budget.

RYAN: He cuts -- its deeper than that. We think he goes far deeper, to the point where he's beginning to hollow out our military. He cuts about $500 billion.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this different than the automatic cuts that are going to go into effect...

RYAN: Yes. This is separate from the sequester.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... next January? This is separate from that.

RYAN: That's right.


RYAN: And so what we say -- and the president says -- either ignores the sequester or says he's going to raises taxes to cover the sequester. We say, let's preempt the sequester with other spending cuts in other areas instead of having these sharp, disruptive cuts.

And so we're actually moving different spending cuts across all government agencies. We're starting all the waste and abuse that you talk about with the GAO, but we're also talking about getting power back to the states, doing Welfare reform to make sure that we can get these programs wired toward getting people onto lives of self-sufficiency and not continue lives of dependency.

So we think that there's a lot of things that need to be done in the government to get us back to growth, back to prosperity, to repair our safety net, to reform Medicare and Medicaid so that they're sustainable.

All of those things means we have to stop spending money we don't have. We got to get spending under control. We propose altogether that this cuts about $5.3 trillion in spending out of the president's budget over the next 10 years, and what it does is it gets our debt under control and paid off over time.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me look at some of the extreme situations, like food stamps. There are some people who live on food stamps, desperately need food stamps. Some people you might -- some people are critical and saying some don't. But let -- but there are some who genuinely need food stamps. They can't get jobs. They're trying to do their best. Do you do anything to them?

RYAN: Yes, we -- we get savings from food stamps, about $133 billion over the next 10 years. And the point is this. Food stamps have quadrupled over the last 10 years. That's more than enough to make up for just the recession because states were incentivized under the stimulus package to keep signing people up to food stamps continuously and then never really checking whether they should go off of it or not. So what we're doing is we want to block grant this program to the states and...

VAN SUSTEREN: You want to what?

RYAN: Block grant...

VAN SUSTEREN: Block grant. OK.

RYAN: ... it to the states and give states more accountability in administering the food stamp program so they're not incentivized just to continually send people more up (ph) for food stamps.

And the key is this. Just like Welfare reform in 1996, work requirements, time limits, job training requirements -- those kinds of incentives that encourage people to get on to lives of self-sufficiency, giving them the means to go back to work -- those were really successful in 1996 when Welfare reform was done then.

The problem was, that was just one Welfare reform that applied to one program. We want to apply those kinds of Welfare reform to these other programs. There are about 69 different Welfare programs that have not been reformed. Food stamps is one of them, and we want to replicate those kinds of successful reforms like we had in the '90s.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one of the things in this is a little bit separate from the budget, but it does have to do with our money, is waste in this city. There is -- I mean, there's a GAO report that Senator Tom Coburn commissioned that every year -- I mean, it's scandalous, the waste. I mean, is there any way that it's reflected in your budget because -- you know, where this money is and how we pick it up?

RYAN: Yes. And we cite that GAO report. We cite some of the Coburn studies in our budget and actually put those savings in the budget by going after cutting discretionary spending. And also we fund accounts, meaning to go after that. We fund what we call program integrity. We fund more auditors to actually go out dig up that waste so we can get that spending cut.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. All right. Now, last night, there was a vote on the president's budget.

RYAN: Zero.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, yes, but that was a -- do you agree it was a stunt?

RYAN: They said, Let's have a vote on the president's budget.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but -- but...

RYAN: We took the CBO -- the Congressional Budget Office said, Here is the president's budget. Here are its numbers. We put it in the bill, brought it to the floor, and nobody voted for it.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. How much politics and how much...

RYAN: Well, we wanted -- we wanted to see if people are going to support the president's budget or not.

VAN SUSTEREN: You knew they wouldn't! Didn't you?


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, didn't...

RYAN: No, actually not.

VAN SUSTEREN: You really thought that...

RYAN: I thought the Democrats would support it, yes.


RYAN: I thought some Democrats might support it.

VAN SUSTEREN: So that wasn't just a stunt?

RYAN: It was to be able to show the contrast. If the Senate's not going to show a budget, then let's give the country a choice. Let's have a vote on the various visions of government for the country, the president's budget which he's given and the Republican vision. Now, we've shown -- we weren't planning on voting for it, but I thought surely some Democrats might vote for the president's budget, and none of them wanted to vote for it.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm sort of curious, your -- the ranking member, Congressman Van Hollen -- you guys -- you seem to like each other.

RYAN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: That you're good friends.

RYAN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: How come there -- you're -- that everyone's so far apart on this? Why can't you work it out?

RYAN: Well, I think it's important not to impugn people's motives. I think it's important not to be disagreeable when you disagree. And I always find it's very important to try and work with people where you can and to get along well with people personally so that you can set the stage for being able to cooperate. But Chris and I just disagree on these fundamental issues.

VAN SUSTEREN: You can't -- I mean, I would think of any two men I know or women in Congress, that you two would be able to sort of bring it a little closer.

RYAN: He likes to talk about balance. But what balance means in Washington today is spend more money and tax more money, and I just don't agree with that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thought on Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin, the great state of Wisconsin?

RYAN: You know, I've been so focused on this budget, I'm not really sure what's going to happen. But I bet it's going to be pretty close.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's going to be a fascinating one. Anyway, Congressman, thank you, sir.

RYAN: Thanks, Greta.