Ryan: U.S. doesn't have a debt crisis yet

Ryan: Hopeful can get "down payment" on debt with budget
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., says he's hopeful Republicans and Democrats can compromise and pass a budget that at least represents a "down payment" on the national debt.

(CBS News) The United States does not have a debt crisis, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said today on "Face the Nation," corroborating what House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama have said as both chambers of Congress scramble to concoct a budget plan to shore up the federal deficit. But, Ryan added, a crisis is "irrefutably" on its way.

"To borrow a phrase from my friend Erskine Bowles" - President Clinton's former chief of staff and Washington's go-to budget guru - "we are the healthiest-looking horse in the glue factory," Ryan said. "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 probably because of our resilient economy, because of our world currency status.

"So we do not have a debt crisis right now," Ryan continued. "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."

Called the "Path to Prosperity," Ryan's budget, unveiled last week, is almost identical to several controversial budget plans he's released in previous years, none of which came close to passing the Democrat-controlled Senate. One distinction in this year's blueprint is that it eliminates the budget deficit in 10 years rather than the 25+ proposed in previous plans.

Democrats take particular issue with Ryan's insistence that a balanced budget is unachievable without eliminating President Obama's Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." His plan also suggests transforming the nation's Medicare program into a voucher-like system for Americans younger than 25 - a move Democrats staunchly oppose.

With the Senate now drafting its own budget, Ryan said he's "hopeful" a deal can be reached before the expiration of the continuing resolution - a stopgap funding measure that funds the government through March 27 - threatens to shut down the government. It "was always intended to work this way," Ryan said. "The House passes a budget, the Senate passes a budget; we try to bridge the gap."

"...Each budget reflects our priorities, reflects our principles, reflects our vision," Ryan said. Republicans, he continued, "believe in balancing the budget; we believe in getting government to live within its means; we believe there should be pro-growth economic policies, energy exploration, fixing our entitlements before they go bankrupt. Sure, you can say the Democrats don't like that, but we're not writing a Democratic budget in the House. We're writing a Republican budget."

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, appearing in the next segment, said she "appreciates" Ryan's "dedication to this issue," and said as the Senate moves its budget, "I truly believe" a compromise will be reached next week.

"I think this is an exciting time when we can get a compromise between Democrats and Republicans, and we have to," she said. "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."

Klobuchar conceded there are potential sticking points, including Ryan's proposed $4.5 trillion in tax cuts, saying: "Unless a leprechaun is going to magically jump out and give him a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow today, I don't think we can afford that. (However,) we know there's going to be a compromise."

"I think there's a real urgency in Washington, particularly in the Senate, that I've never seen before," Klobuchar said. "People have been talking for years about this, there's some common ground. But now people want to get this done."

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.