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Post-convention, Paul Ryan explains himself on morning talk shows

September 09, 2012|By Alana Semuels

More than a week after giving a convention speech that raised questions about his relationship with some facts, Rep. Paul D. Ryan made the circuit of Sunday morning talk shows, where he was asked to explain discrepancies between his voting record and the current positions of the Romney campaign.

His answers, at times, befuddled the journalists asking him questions.

The exchange got especially heated on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where Norah O’Donnell repeatedly questioned the Republican vice presidential nominee about bills he voted for but now opposes.

The pattern went something like this: O’Donnell would ask Ryan a question about a past vote that contradicted what he says now; Ryan would tell her she was wrong, and then launch an attack on President Obama.

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For example, O’Donnell asked Ryan about comments made by his running mate, Mitt Romney, that Republicans were wrong to go along with a deal last summer that included automatic cuts to defense spending in order to raise the debt ceiling. (Romney repeated these comments Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press”).

Ryan was one of the Republicans who voted for the deal. But when asked about that vote by O’Donnell, he replied: “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 passed, in the House, a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere.”

He then delved into a bit more wonkiness. “So the problem, Norah, is, we’ve led.… And the president hasn’t fulfilled his end of that bipartisan agreement,” he said. 

O’Donnell pressed Ryan on the issue, reminding him that the Budget Control Act, which he supported, included a trillion dollars in spending cuts, including defense cuts. He even put out a statement calling the vote a “victory,” she said. Which led to this baffling exchange:

“And you also voted for those, and now you’re saying that you didn’t vote for them?” O’Donnell said.

“I voted for the Budget Control Act. But the Obama administration proposed $478 billion in defense cuts. We don’t agree with that, our budget rejected that,” Ryan answered.

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“Right, it’s a trillion dollars in defense spending and you voted for it,” she said. 

“No, Norah,” he said.

“You voted for it,” she said.  

“I voted for the Budget Control Act,” he said. “Norah, you’re mistaken.”

O’Donnell also asked Ryan about Romney’s tax plan, which an analysis by the Tax Policy Center concluded would decrease revenue by $5 trillion. O’Donnell asked how those cuts, plus $2 trillion in defense spending increases proposed by Romney, would lead to a balanced budget.

“Neither of those numbers are accurate, number one. Number two, we’re talking about revenue-neutral tax reform,” Ryan replied. “You know there are some Democrats who agree with us on this kind of approach to tax reform. Unfortunately it’s not President Obama.  He’s been on the outside looking in on this for a long time.”

Ryan was also asked about the Romney tax plan on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, who played a clip of Bill Clinton saying the Romney-Ryan tax plan would eliminate deductions for middle-class families. Stephanopoulos asked for specifics on how the Romney-Ryan tax plan would stay revenue neutral without eliminating those deductions.

“Well, first of all, that – those claims have been pretty discredited,” Ryan said. “There have been five different studies that show – that this – that this plan works.… We think the secret to economic growth is lower tax rates for families and successful small businesses by plugging loopholes.”

Stephanopoulos asked for specifics on that plan, wondering how voters could accept the plan if they didn’t know its specifics. Ryan replied that the Romney campaign wanted to come up with a framework on such a plan, and put it before Congress.

“We want to have this debate in the public,” he said. 

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Ryan also hedged on his willingness to compromise on tax reform. When asked by Stephanopoulos if he’d walk away from a deal to agree to $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts, Ryan didn’t exactly answer.

“The point is, you're not giving me a deal to look at. You're giving me ratios,” he said. “I don’t want to chase some revenue line which compromises economic growth, and I also don't want to take my eye off the ball, which is spending is the problem.”

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