Transcript: Face to Face with Rep. Paul Ryan

Schieffer: Hello I'm Bob Schieffer and this is Face to Face, our middle of the week web edition brought to you by the folks at FACE THE NATION and our guest this morning is Representative Paul Ryan, of the Ryan plan and so on. Well congressman, what did you think of the president's speech?

Ryan: Well first of all welcome to the budget committee it's good to have you hear. Predictable. The president gives great speeches, it's the results that just aren't so great after the follow-up. I think it was a very political speech, I think he basically launched his campaign. It was more of a litany of new proposals to spend a lot of money we don't have than taking on the biggest challenges. I mean he didn't even really talk about the debt. He didn't even mention the fact that we need to pass a budget to get this situation under control and he basically talked a lot of new ideas, new proposals to spend money. I think he also tried to reframe American values as his definition of fairness and equality in a more progressive stream which is really more the government makes the decisions on how these things are to be determined which is really antithetical to the American idea.

Schieffer: Well he did draw the line. I think we now know what this campaign is going to be about. He's going to say the deck is stacked against you, the Republicans are not giving you a fair shake. Republicans are going to say Barack Obama didn't arrive here last week, he's been here for three years and this ought to be an election about his presidency.

Ryan: I think it needs to be more than that. I don't think that's adequate to simply win an election by default by saying this guy's bad. That's not the kind of election we have to have in this country. I would agree with what you said though. The president cannot run on his record. He's not going to change his policies because he's ideologically committed to them. So he's not going to have a kind of Clinton triangulation, he's going to have to double down on the direction he's taking and then he's really going hardcore on sort of his ideology. I think he's very committed to it. The problem that people like me have is I think with this progressivist ideology is really antithetical to what made America great. You know, economic freedom, limited government. And so what we want is to advance the idea of equal opportunity, of a safety net. I think the result of his vision is that the government needs to be bigger and do more to equalize the outcome of people's lives versus equal opportunity. And that kind of a vision I think will lead us to a stagnant society, a country in decline and doubt and debt.

Schieffer: Let me just ask you about, if Mitt Romney gets the nomination, now he's out there, doesn't he become the face of what President Obama's trying to say? He said look, this guy made $20 million last year and he's paying less than 15 percent of that in taxes. You're having to pay more taxes than he is and that's unfair so we ought to do something about that.

Ryan: I think that's clearly going to be the strategy if that's the nominee we have. But what is important for Mitt Romney to do is take the moral high ground on these issues. Take on the beauty of our free enterprise system and defend it fully. Defend it confidently. And go to the American people not with a envy and division and resentment strategy, which is really what the president is doing, and go with a unity strategy. One that simply appeals to people based on our founding principles and how we're going to get this country together and how we're going to take on the challenges that the president has ducked, which, as a result, has made us so much worse. We're $4 trillion deeper in the hole and closer to a European kind of a debt crisis as a result of this administration and so I think the president is going to try to divide America with this class division strategy to win an election. It is not a hopeful, it's not change. It is preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment and I just don't think people will buy it. And Mitt Romney, if he is the nominee, will have to forcefully denounce that and more importantly offer the country a different vision and give him a different choice, based upon our principles, to fix this country. And if we do all of that, at the end of the day, at least we will have given the country a choice of what kind of America they want to have. And I think we'll win that exchange.

Schieffer: What if the nominee is Newt Gingrich?

Ryan: I think the same strategy applies to either person. You can talk about the different nuances of the attacks - Obama's going to attack whoever it is. The question is, are we giving the country a very specific agenda routed in founding principles, to solve this country's biggest problem? This is not an ordinary election, Bob. This is, really, a trajectory-determining election. Is America going this way or that way? An opportunity society with a safety net, or a cradle-to-grave welfare state? I mean these are the decisions we're going to make in the next few years because this debt crisis is right on our horizon. And so we need to have an affirming election, where we give the country specifically who we are, what we intend to do, and if you elect us we'll do this. That gives us the ability in 2013 to save the country from a debt crisis. That's how I see it.

Schieffer: Let's just say it is Newt Gingrich. He brings a certain amount of baggage, I think even Newt Gingrich would agree to that. Would he be a stronger candidate than Mitt Romney?

Ryan: I'm not going to get into that. I'm not, I'm not endorsing. I'm chairing an effort at the Republican National Committee to help prepare for the general election and as a result of that I have to be neutral so I'm not getting into picking sides on any of this. And what I've been trying to do here in my job is to try and frame this choice. To try and move our party and the center of political gravity in America to confronting this debt crisis. And I think we've gone a long ways. Our nominee, whoever it's going to be, is going to help us with that. Either of these two gentlemen have been improving on their stances and their positions and their speeches on framing this choice. What I care about is not necessarily who the nominee is, is are we doing justice to the American people by giving them an honest choice to fix this country's problems.

Schieffer: Do you think there's any chance that Congress can somehow come together with the White House and get anything done this year?

Ryan: Not of significance because here's why. It's been a thousand and one days since the Senate passed a budget. When you say of significance, I assume you're talking economics and fiscal policy, right? So you have to pass a budget if you're going to change fiscal policy, if you're going to do an economic plan, tax reform or Medicare reform. The way our system works you have to do that through a budget. The Senate now for almost three years has decided not to budget, and if the Senate doesn't pass a budget - even though we in the House did and will again - the system just stops. It comes to a screeching halt. We're still living under the 2009 Obama budget, and they are already telling us that they're not going to do a budget again. So that's just telling me the Senate has decided, along with the White House, not to offer a credible plan to fix this country's fiscal problems, not to pass a budget and that means the system just stops.

Schieffer: What, Congressman, what should people out there think when they hear you say that? I mean three years over a thousand days since you've been able to pass a budget and you're just saying the system is broken, nothing is going to happen, we're going to spend another year just talking about the campaign.

Ryan: So I think what they should think is okay, let's reward the people who've been trying to fix the problem who have been actually putting solutions out there, passing solutions -the Republicans. We've got 30 bills over in the Senate focused on economic growth. We passed a budget. And then let's replace the people who chose to do nothing. Who chose politics over substance, which is the Senate and the White House. Look, the president knows the fiscal crisis is here. He barely spoke about it yesterday. He instead gave us a laundry list of new spending proposals he wants to finance, with money we don't have. So what they hopefully will understand is, you need to have a Senate, a House and a White House that are committed to results - not politics, but results. In order to do that, this place has to function. And it can't function if half of Congress - the United States Senate - chooses for three years not to even budget.

Schieffer: What if people take another tack and say, "Why don't we just throw the whole bunch of them out - Republicans, Democrats, whoever's in the White House?"

Ryan: They might do that as well. But what I hope we get out of this election is, we go straight to the country and say, here's exactly what we think we've got to do to save America from fiscal ruin, to get our country back on track, to reclaim the American idea. And if you elect us, we will do that. That to me is an affirming election, not a default election but an affirming election where we can actually fix this country's problems before we become a European, you know, debt crisis. I think the president won more or less a default election in 2008 and then he rammed through - because he had total control of Washington -- a very ideological agenda. And it's not an agenda that people necessarily voted for when they voted for him, but it's an agenda they got. And as a result of it, our fiscal situation is much, much worse. It's accelerated. We shouldn't have the same election, which is - they didn't like George Bush so vote for Barack Obama. We can't say, we don't like Barack Obama so vote for us. We need to say, we don't like Barack Obama and here's why and here's what we'll do differently. Vote for us and we'll do this. And then if we win that kind of election, then we have the moral authority and the opportunity to actually save this country from ruin. At least that's how I see it.

Schieffer: Chairman of the House Budget Committee, thank you so much. This has been FACE to FACE, the midweek edition of FACE THE NATION. And don't forget to watch FACE THE NATION Sunday, when we'll have a special one hour edition from Florida.

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