During an interview on Meet The Press on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) predicted that the sequester cuts are “going to happen” and made no concrete proposals for how to avoid the reductions. The tone represents a sharp rhetorical and policy shift for the onetime GOP vice presidential nominee, who warned during the 2012 presidential campaign that the cuts would “devastate” the country and undermine job growth.
“I think the sequester is going to happen,” Ryan said, referring to the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies that will go into effect unless Congress approves offsets. He charged that Democrats rejected the GOP’s replacement legislation — the bill cut the food-stamp program, slashed Medicaid, undermined funding for the Affordable Care Act and disaster relief — and failed to produce their own alternatives:
RYAN: If Mitt Romney and I won the election, they would not have happened. You know why? Because we would have gone and worked with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to actually put the budget on a path to balance and would have saved defense. So where are we now? I think the sequester is going to happen because that $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, we can’t lose those spending cuts. [...] But we think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternatives.
In fact, Democrats introduced offsets in the hopes of reaching a grand bargain that could turn off the sequester and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
Days before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) abandoned negotiations with President Obama to advance his failed Plan B, the White House paired a tax increase on the richest Americans with spending cuts of $1.22 trillion over 10 years, including “adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security.” Despite Ryan’s claims, the Democrats’ plan contained: $400 billion in savings “from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.”
Ryan also reiterated that Republicans won’t support additional revenues to turn off the sequester, noting that the American Taxpayer Relief Act — the last minute law that averted the fiscal cliff — included an increase in taxes on couples making more than $450,000 annually and singles making more than $400,000. “The point is, though, the president got his additional revenues. So that’s behind us,” Ryan said on Sunday.
The comments represent another retreat for Ryan, who backed Mitt Romney’s proposal to raise revenues by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Those reforms were not included in the American Taxpayer Relief Act and could be part of a package that reforms tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations, generating “$1 trillion in potential savings over 10 years” — more than enough to replace the sequester.