Face the Nation transcripts March 17, 2013: Ryan, Klobuchar, Priebus
RYAN: It's a ridiculous statistic that didn't even measure our budget. They made up their own assumptions to come up with that statistic. We are saying, let's have revenue-neutral tax reform. What does that mean? That means take the current amount of revenue that's coming in through the tax code and replace it with a better tax code, one that the Ways and Means Committee will write this year, meaning lower tax rates with fewer crony loopholes. This is the whole point of tax reform. And there are Democrats who agree with us. The Bipartisan Policy Center, another left-leaning group, says we should lower our tax rates across the board for families and small businesses and corporations and pay for it by plugging loopholes. And you can do so without losing revenue to the federal government, which is what our plan is, which absolutely negates the statistic that you just read to me.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about this. John Boehner said in an interview broadcast on ABC this morning that we do not have an immediate debt crisis, which is basically what the president said in an interview the other day. Do you believe we have an immediate debt crisis?
RYAN: To borrow a phrase from my friend Erskine Bowles on the Fiscal Commission, we are the healthiest looking horse in the glue factory. That means America is still a step ahead of the European nations who are confronting a debt crisis, of Japan that's in its second lost decade. It's partly because of our resilient economy, because of our world currency status. So we do not have a debt crisis right now, but we see it coming. We know it's irrefutably happening. And the point we're trying to make with our budget is let's get ahead of this problem. Look, we know that in the debt crisis you pull the rug out from under people living on the safety net. You cut seniors in retirement. This is what we're trying to avoid. The purpose of having a reasonable balanced budget like we're proposing is let's prevent a debt crisis from happening in the first place. If we keep kicking the can down the road, if we follow the president's lead or if we pass the Senate budget, then we will have a debt crisis. Then everybody gets hurt. You know who gets hurt first and the worst in a debt crisis? The poor, the elderly. That's what we're trying to prevent from happening. Pro-growth economic policies to get people working to bring in more revenue and get the entitlement system under control so it doesn't go bankrupt so people can seriously plan for the promises that government has made for them in retirement. That's what we're saying, is let's prevent a debt crisis from happening. We know it's coming. This budget does that.
SCHIEFFER: Do you still trust the president? John Boehner said in the interview that he still trusts the president. Do you trust him? And I guess part two of that would be do you trust congressional Democrats?
RYAN: I subscribe to the Reagan school of thought, which is trust but verify. I think the so-called charm offensive, I think that's a good thing. Look, at least the president is now starting to talk to people in the other party. The real question is the sincerity and whether it's going to continue on, whether he'll go back to the campaign trail, focus on 2014, or whether he'll sincerely try to work with us to get a down payment on the problem. My goal and hope with this budget is that now that the Senate is actually doing a budget is that we have this vehicle, this legislative process, which was always intended to work this way: House passes a budget, Senate passes a budget, try to bridge the gap, talk with the president and let's get a down payment on the problem. The goal of the Republican majority is to get us on a path to balancing the budget, is to get a down payment on our debt and deficits to push the debt crisis out, to borrow time with the bond markets. Yes, I believe the president won't pass our budget into law. But let's get a down payment. Let's get a good start on the problem. That, to me, is something that a constructive, bipartisan engagement can accomplish. And that means that this charm offensive needs to be sincere and needs to last throughout the summer.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think that -- that the president is right when he says that some members -- and I think he didn't differentiate between parties -- are just simply afraid to make what they know are the right decisions on some of these things?
RYAN: I've been saying that for years, Bob.
I mean, look, I'm the guy who put out entitlement reform seven budgets ago. The third rail in politics is, if you touch these programs, you politically die. Look, the program we have is these programs are going bankrupt. We need to be honest with the American people about the problems and the challenges ahead and the solutions that are needed to fix them. And I would argue it's the president who has been missing in action on this front. He knows we have a debt crisis coming. All independent experts show us this. And so he hasn't even given us a budget yet. I mean, the law required that he was supposed to submit a budget the first Monday in February. He still hasn't done it. At least the Senate's doing something now. And so where we have not seen leadership is in the critical areas we need it. The president and the Senate, which now is actually putting a plan out there, but now we've got to get on to the point where we have a problem; we know what it is; let's start fixing it. House Republicans have been offering budgets every year on this. And so, yeah, people have been ducking these tough issues. People have been hoping to use these issues to beat the other party in the next election. Let's get through that. Let's start fixing problems. And I'm hopeful that we can maybe get a downpayment on this problem this year.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Congressman, we want to thank you very much. We hope we'll be hearing from you many times in the days to come as we continue to cover this story. Always nice to have you.
RYAN: Thanks, Bob. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you, and the same to you. We did, in fact, invite the administration to give its side on all of this, but White House officials declined to participate today. So we turn now to Minnesota's Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is in Minneapolis this morning. And a happy St. Patrick's Day to you. You are also wearing the green. Senator, what did -- what's your, just, off-the-top-of-your-head reaction to Congressman Ryan?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, I appreciate Congressman Ryan's dedication to this issue. As he knows, the Senate is now moving forward with a budget. I think this is an exciting time where we can actually get a compromise between Democrats and Republicans, and we have to for this country. Now, I think we need not only to balance the budget in the future but we also need balance in the budget. And that is some of my concerns with some of the proposals that the congressman has put out there. I don't think America can afford 4.5 trillion in additional tax cuts that are in his budget, especially when an average millionaire would get something like $280,000 in additional tax cuts every year. Unless a leprechaun is going to magically jump out and give him a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow today, Bob, I don't think we can afford that. I also am concerned that there is no revenue going forward in that budget when in fact there are some simple things that we could do to bring some revenue into the budget so that we are not balancing this budget on the backs of the middle class. So overall, I think this is a great time of opportunity. I would agree with Congressman Ryan. We literally are standing on a precipice here in terms of the opportunities. Unemployment rates were down to the lowest level -- you have to go back four years just this last month. We have a situation where the housing market is finally coming back. In my state they're making stuff again, exporting to the world. So we have to do something on this debt, but we have to see it as an opportunity and not set us back.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, one thing about your budget that jumps out, almost like a leprechaun, it does -- it never balances the budget. Aren't you going to have to do better on that and get closer to balancing the budget if this is going to be taken seriously?
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