Congressman Paul Ryan, the former running mate of Mitt Romney, is questioning the sincerity of President Obama’s overtures to GOP legislators in recent weeks.
“The question is, I guess… is he going to go out on the campaign trail and campaign against us like he has been since the election?” Ryan said on Morning Joe Wednesday, the day after the Republican representative unveiled his budget. “Was the so-called charm offensive a temporary poll-driven political calculation or a sincere effort to try and bring people together?”
President Obama is in his second term and cannot seek re-election again in fours years at the next presidential election.
Since his re-election, Obama has traveled the country advocating for policies like tax hikes for the wealthy, gun control, and immigration reform. He was successful in securing tax hikes from Congress in a revenue deal before Christmas, but the two political parties have remained deadlocked on how to move forward with a new federal budget. On the left, a Senate budget written by Democrat Sen. Patty Murray calls for $1 trillion in new revenue. On the right, Ryan’s House budget assumes Obamacare does not exist (though it has been upheld by the Supreme Court), but does include the $700 billion cuts to Medicare that come with the bill.
Starting last week, Obama began public outreach to politicians on both sides of the aisle, hosting dinners and lunches to try to broker a deal. The media dubbed it a “charm offensive.”
Ryan was invited to lunch at the White House last week with the president. He said on Morning Joe that it was the first extended conversation he’d ever had with the president and characterized it as “very, very frank and candid.”
“I ran against him. Of course we have different views, but at least we started talking,” he said. “The question is, ‘Is there follow-through?’ The question is, ‘Does the campaign start back up or does the engagement continue in a real, constructive, and promising way?’”
At the crux of the two parties’ polar opposite views today is their inability to agree on a budget.
On Morning Joe, Ryan said he believes there are bargaining chips in his budget that Democrats and Republicans can agree on without “offending either party’s philosophy.”
“We take spending down by $4.6 trillion, meaning spending grows by 3.4% over the next decade instead of the 5% track it’s on,” he said. “Somewhere between those two numbers is probably an agreement.”
Ryan painted his budget as a wishlist, not a list of requirements.
“I know we’re not going to get everything we want, but hopefully we’re going to get a downpayment on the problem, a step in the right direction,” he said, before adding that he was pleased the Senate was putting together its own budget so the two sides could “start looking for common ground.” Still, the congressman said he didn’t see much room for compromise in Murray’s budget.
Ryan continued to slam Obamacare, despite being reminded it was extremely unlikely to be repealed at this juncture.
“I think this law is going to collapse under its own weight. This thing is going to be a budget buster, ” he said. “I don’t think its’ going to be a popular law and our job is to offer alternatives.”