Ryan defends his support of defense cuts

Paul Ryan
CBS News

(CBS News) Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan placed plenty of blame on President Obama for half a trillion dollars worth of defense cuts set to go into effect in 2013, even thought the Wisconsin congressman supported them.

Ryan said he voted for the defense cuts "because I was working to find common ground with Democrats to get a down payment on deficit reduction," Ryan told host Norah O'Donnell Sunday on "Face the Nation." "I worked with President Obama to find common ground to get a down payment on deficit reduction. It wasn't a big down payment, but it was a step in the right direction."

The defense cuts are half part of more than $1 trillion dollars of automatic across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, which are a result of an agreement between Republicans in Congress and President Obama to lift the debt ceiling.

The defense cuts were an incentive for Congress to come up with alternative ways to cut more than $1 trillion from the deficit, but since Congress failed to pass a plan, the budget cuts are expected to go into effect next fiscal year.

Ryan, however, blamed the president for the defense cuts. "That's putting politics ahead of national security," he said.

"[I]f he's not going to help us with a plan to prevent those defense cuts by substituting them with cuts from elsewhere, what's his plan for the sequester? He's ignoring the law. He was supposed to give these to us just yesterday. So the problem, Norah, is, we've led," Ryan added.

Once an agreement was reached, however, Ryan praised the agreement in August 2011. "The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy. I applaud Speaker Boehner's leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama's demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls."

Ryan walked that statement back Sunday morning. "No, no, I have to correct you on this, Norah. I voted for a mechanism that says a sequester would occur if we don't cut $1.2 trillion in spending in government. We offered $1.2 trillion in various - the Supercommittee offered it."

The "Supercommittee" Ryan referred to, was a bipartisan, bicameral committee set up to come up with alternatives to the automatic spending cuts. Although Ryan says the Supercommittee came up with a plan, it did not.

Ryan also denied voting for additional defense cuts totaling $478 billion that top military brass supported. "That's half of the trillion we don't support," Ryan said, adding that he wants "to cut spending in other areas of government instead of the Pentagon."

Ryan also defended Mitt Romney's plan, which he says will close the deficit, to cut taxes by $5 trillion and increase defense spending by $2 trillion. When O'Donnell asked how he could close the deficit with that plan, Ryan said, "Neither of those numbers are accurate, number one," be he did not clarify what the accurate numbers are.

"Number two, we're talking about revenue neutral tax reform. Meaning not losing revenue, but changing the way we raise revenue by plugging loopholes and tax shelters that are uniquely enjoyed by higher income earners, so that more of their income is subject to taxation. So that we can lower tax rates for everybody: Families, small businesses, get the economic growth and job creation," Ryan added.

Moving onto foreign policy, Ryan said President Obama called Romney's approach "bumbling" and "blustering" because "they have nothing else to offer."

"I have more foreign policy experience coming into this job than President Obama, who sat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, did coming into his," Ryan said, pointing to his 14 years in Congress. "I've voted to send men and women to war. I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I've met with our troops to get their perspectives. I've been to the funerals, I've talked to the widows, I've talked to the wives, the moms and the dads. That's something. That matters," Ryan said.

Ryan added that "Iran is our biggest foreign policy threat today" and defended Mitt Romney who said previously that Russia was the U.S.'s biggest threat.

"I think what he was saying, was among the other powers, China and Russia, that Russia stands a great threat."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.