WASHINGTON – Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) waded into the thick of the debt-limit debate, calling for a swift compromise between House Republicans and President Obama. But his proposals have already sparked conservative ire.
Ryan, in an opinion piece published online by the Wall Street Journal Tuesday night, called for the two sides to “find common ground.”
“We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today – and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow,” he wrote, ending his public silence on the issue. “So let’s negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.”
Such reforms could include hiking Medicare premiums for wealthy Americans, increasing the amount federal employees contribute to retirement funds and revamping the country’s tax code, Ryan said, conceding that sequestration cuts could also be reworked.
What has conservative members of the GOP riled up is Ryan’s fleeting reference to the Affordable Care Act. Ryan calls for a “complete rethinking of government’s approach to healthcare,” but also says that’s an issue that can be dealt with later.
Ryan’s statement conflicts with the desires of many conservatives in the House, who have persistently called for dismantling Obamacare. Their refusal to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government without delaying or defunding parts of the law was a central cause of the government shutdown.
And Michael Needham, chief executive of the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action, said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday that “the attention of Republicans and conservatives needs to be back on Obamacare and not on other ways out of this situation.”
But Ryan isn’t the first Republican leader in the House to write an opinion piece that does not make demands on Obamacare. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Obama “not only has refused to negotiate on issues of debt and spending, but also has mocked the very idea of engaging with Congress.” The piece, published in the Washington Post on Tuesday, does not make any mention of healthcare legislation in relation to the shutdown or the debt limit debate.
Cantor and Ryan’s pieces insist that Obama come to the negotiating table before resolving the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling. But Obama reiterated Tuesday that he regards such tactics as “ransom” and “hostage-taking,” and will do no such thing, leaving both sides locked in a stalemate.