House GOP leaders mum on whether they’ll stand behind Paul Ryan’s ‘Road Map’

Jon Ward by Jon Ward on December 30th, 2010

This is article 8 of 8 in the topic Entitlement Programs

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, talks about an alternative Republican budget plan he is pushing in the House, Wednesday, April 1, 2009, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

For years, House Republicans have held Paul Ryan’s plan to revamp Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security at arm’s length, deeming it politically unwise to embrace it.

Now that the GOP controls the House, however, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, the incoming speaker of the House and majority leader, face a choice: Do they keep Ryan’s “Road Map” plan in the background, or embrace it and use it to present the country with a clear contrast to President Obama?

Ryan has said he wants to include his plan – which would move entitlements and health care in a more free market direction than Obama’s health plan, seeking to lower prices through consumer purchasing power – in the budget that comes out of his committee in April, but that he does not know if leadership will support him.

“I know what I want to do but I don’t know what I can do,” he said earlier this month.

Passing the Road Map as part of the House budget would likely go nowhere in the Senate and would undoubtedly draw the president’s veto even if it made it to his desk. But it would be a conscious decision by Republicans to do more than say no to Obama’s plan, moving beyond mere opposition to advocating a vision of their own.

“We will be choosing what kind of future we want to have for the rest of this century in the very near future in this country, probably in 2012. So I believe we owe it to the country to give them an alternative choice than the path we’re on right now,” Ryan said.

One week before the 112th Congress begins, Boehner and Cantor have kept mum about their intentions. They declined to answer questions from The Daily Caller on the matter.

A survey of Republican and Tea Party leaders found some support for the idea of embedding the Road Map in the budget, though there was also some at the grassroots level who demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the plan.

Doug Mainwaring, a Tea Party activist in the Maryland suburbs north of Washington, was unequivocal about his desire to see the Road Map banner picked up by Republican leaders in Congress.

“If the Republican leadership doesn’t get behind Mr. Ryan and actively promote the Road Map, I predict that Tea Partiers will be looking for a new crop of congressmen in 2012,” Mainwaring, a real estate agent, told TheDC.

Mainwaring said that the Road Map is “the only sincere attempt to deal with serious structural and systemic problems our nation now faces,” and said Tea Party activists are “suspicious” about why Ryan’s plan has not been put “front and center” by House GOP leaders.

Bob MacGuffie, a grassroots Tea Party activist in Connecticut, said the grassroots conservatives in his state would support the Ryan plan “100 percent” if it was introduced in the House budget.

“We know the pony ride is over and we’re eager for our national leaders to stand up, face the music and save the Republic,” MacGuffie said.

Potential Republican candidates for president in 2012 were harder to nail down on the matter. Only John Bolton, a former Bush administration foreign policy adviser who is considered a long shot for the nomination, outright endorsed the idea of putting the Road Map in the budget.

“Nobody else has put forth better plans,” Bolton told TheDC. “You’ve got to start somewhere. This is a pretty good place to start.”

Other potential presidential candidates, when asked whether the Road Map should be part of the House Republican budget, gave less direct answers.

“The newly elected Republican majority should pass a budget that moves in the direction of fiscal responsibility that Congressman Ryan and other conservatives have proposed,” said Alex Conant, spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

A spokeswoman for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels pointed to a comment by the Republican where he said: “Whatever budget [Ryan] produces, I expect to find myself in strong agreement.”

And while former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed the Road Map in theory, a spokeswoman declined to comment when asked whether Palin thought Ryan’s plan should be put forward in 2011.

Health care is a tough subject for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, because he presided over the passage of a system that is in many ways similar to Obama’s, and unsurprisingly his aides did not respond to questions about the Ryan plan.

James Capretta, a former Bush White House budget adviser, said offering something like the Road Map will be the best tactical course for Republicans to take.

“It won’t be easy, and they don’t need to embrace every element of the Roadmap,” Capretta said. “But they need to show how they would begin to restructure government to avoid massive deficits.”

“And, by the way, Obama’s got to go first, and he has the same problem,” Capretta said, referring to the fact that the president releases a budget proposal first, which is then taken up by Congress. “So he’s likely to embrace tax hikes (in the name of tax reform) and R’s will want to show contrast with him, of course.”

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