After Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the Republican budget that would end Medicare and extend tax breaks for the wealthy, public backlash was swift. Constituent anger erupted at town halls across the country and polling showed the Republican plan hugely unpopular, even among GOP voters. The budget is so toxic that the leading Republican presidential contenders, including Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich, have steadfastly refused to endorse it.
Even GOPers are now admitting that the House Republicans’ agenda will end up costing thm seats in Congress. ThinkProgress recently spoke with former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford about what effect the Republican plan to end Medicare will have. Sanford singled out the upcoming New York 26th congressional district special election as one that Republicans may lose because of the Ryan budget, and conceded that his party would likely take “some losses” elsewhere as well. Still, the former governor argued that Ryan’s budget was “pioneering,” which necessarily “will involve losses”:
KEYES: You mentioned the NY-26 race. Do you think it would be worth it for Republicans to maybe lose a few of these races in pursuit of the ultimate goal of passing Ryan’s budget?
SANFORD: Yes. Everybody wants to play it safe in politics. But at the end of the day, you can only kick the can down the road so long. […] Unless there’s entitlement reform, we’re going to see wheels start coming off the bus that would have again tragic implications for this generation and the next generation.
KEYES: If that’s the case, why do you suppose there might be these short-term losses for the GOP?
SANFORD: Because everybody’s scared of the unknown. They would say, back when I was in Congress, “there’s pioneers with arrows in their back.” And so nobody wants to pioneer on anything. But what is vital, particularly given the debt levels that we’re looking at, is that we see some pioneering. That will involve losses. Any real conflict will involve losses. In military operations and in politics. Too often, everybody wants to play it so safe that there are no losses and as a consequence, we end up kicking the can down the road. So my view would be, yeah, take some losses in advancing real ideas that will make a real difference in people’s lives rather than watering it down.
Fearful of such losses, Republican leaders are beginning to back away from many tenets of the Ryan plan. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said he would not hold hearings on Ryan’s budget. Multiple GOP senators, including Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are backing off the Ryan plan as well.