ABC News’ Jonathan Karl confronted Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) over his past support for the sequester, just as the one-time GOP vice presidential candidate sought to blame President Obama for the automatic across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect on March 1.
During an appearance on This Week, Ryan argued that President Obama “proposed the sequester” and hasn’t “put any details out there” to offset it. “We are here because the president back in the last session of Congress refused to cut spending in any place and therefore we wound up with the sequester,” Ryan insisted. But Ryan hasn’t always opposed the automatic cuts.
As Karl pointed out, when Congress was debating the Budget Control Act in August of 2011, Ryan supported the framework and urged his fellow Republicans to vote for the sequester:
KARL: Congressman, I’ve heard you Republicans for a long time. This was the president’s idea on and on and on but let’s look at your own words. What you said right after the law putting this in place was passed in August of 2011. These are your words. You said “what conservatives like me have been fighting for for years are statutory caps on spending, literally legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money and if they breach that amount across the board sequester comes in to cut that spending. You can’t turn it out without a supermajority. We got that into law.” Now, it sounds to me there like if you weren’t taking credit for the idea of the sequester, you were certainly suggesting it was a good idea.
RYAN: So those are the budget caps on discretionary spending. Those occurred. We want those. Everybody wants budget caps. The sequester that we’re talking about now is backing up the super committee. Remember the Super Committee in addition to those caps was supposed to come up with 1.2 trillion in savings. The Republicans on the super committee offered even higher revenues in exchange for spending cuts as part of that. It was rejected by the president and the Democrats. So no resolution occurred and therefore the sequester is occurring.
Ryan’s argument is fundamentally dishonest, as he is one of the Republicans responsible for creating the sequester in the first place. In the summer of 2011, Republicans demanded spending cuts to offset a debt ceiling increase and refused to consider new revenues in those negotiations. That standoff produced the Budget Control Act, which Ryan voted for and promoted. The law included spending caps and a devastating sequester as a way to motivate a bipartisan Super Committee to find $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.
After the Super Committee failed to agree on a spending reduction package, Ryan — then the GOP’s vice presidential candidate — consistently railed against the sequester mechanism he previously supported, calling it “reckless” and “devastating.” Two months later, he wants the sequester to go into effect and may incorporate its savings in his upcoming budget.
Ryan tried to end his interview with Karl on a high note, presenting himself as a lawmaker above the fray. “Actually, Jonathan, you’ve known me a long time, and the one thing you know about me is I don’t play that [political] game,” he said in response to a question about whether or not he’s positioning himself for a presidential bid in 2016, adding, “I don’t talk like that.”