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How Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Some Democrats are 'Holding Hands' on Entitlement Reform

April 16, 2012

By Avik Roy

The coalescence of Republicans around a plan to substantially reform our health-care entitlements is one of the most remarkable developments of the last two years. Today, a new report from Jake Sherman and Manu Raju of Politico details how closely Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have worked together to shape a plan that, as recently as 2010, was widely seen as political suicide, but in 2012 may send Mitt Romney to the White House.

First, in early 2011, House Republicans passed Paul Ryan’s first Path to Prosperity budget. Then, in late 2011, Mitt Romney proposed a modified version of Paul Ryan’s plan, which preserved an option for seniors to remain in traditional fee-for-service Medicare. Then, Ryan unveiled his new plan, with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), that mirrored Romney’s call for "competitive bidding" between private Medicare plans and traditional government-run ones.

"You know, I’m kind of proud, because it was the same idea I put forward about a month ago," said Romney of Wyden-Ryan at a GOP Presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

"I hope people understand just how big today is for this country…Today Republicans and Democrats came together with Senator Wyden and Congressman Paul Ryan to say we have a solution to remove that $62 trillion. This is a big day for our kids and grandkids. It’s an enormous achievement. It means we finally have the prospect of dealing with somebody which has the potential of crushing our future generations and a good Democrat and a good Republican came together. This is the impact of people on both sides of the aisle that care about America at a critical time. And I applaud him. It’s good news.

It turns out that in the days before Ryan rolled out his new plan, according to Sherman and Raju, "there was one man eager to learn its details. It was Mitt Romney." Romney and Ryan discussed the plan "over the course of several phone calls," which allowed Romney to "defend the plan against sharp campaign attacks."

Sherman and Raju also report that Republican leaders in Congress have "made it clear" to members that Romney’s team needs to "be on board with any plan to force votes on tax rates before the election—a political plan that’s gaining support among House Republicans." Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) describes the Romney-Congress relationship as one of "holding hands." Rep. Aaron Shock (R., Ill.) says, "Speaker [John] Boehner and Leader [Eric] Cantor have made it clear to us that in the coming weeks, their teams would be sitting down with Gov. Romney’s [campaign] to make sure that a tax extenders package that we advance is on the same page with our Republican nominee."

A dozen Democrats working with Paul Ryan

On top of that, there are multiple reports that a dozen congressional Democrats have been in secret talks with Ryan about signing onto his plan. Alexander Bolton of The Hill reported that a senior aide to Ron Wyden told him that "12 Senate Democratic offices have expressed interest in the Wyden-Ryan plan." Maggie Haberman of Politico wrote that Ryan said he had "the support of about ten Democrats he didn’t name." BuzzFeed quoted Ryan as saying he’d been privately praised by a dozen Dems:

"There are a number of Democrats but I don’t want to name their names, because I don’t want to get them in trouble," he said. "I’ve had 12 come up to me and say, ’I love what you’re doing with Ron [Wyden],’" he said. As for going public with their support, Ryan said the Democrats told him: "No way, I’ll get killed."

"I’m not going to out Democrats who I believe are in office, who are favorably disposed to these ideas, for their own sake and for the sake of getting this consensus realized."

All this to say that, in effect, Romney isn’t merely coordinating policy initiatives with Republicans in Congress, but also, indirectly, with a smattering of congressional Democrats who are concerned about the deficit.

Obama: I favor the status quo; Romney favors "social Darwinism"

All of this productive, bipartisan activity contrasts with recent remarks by President Obama, who sourly described the above reforms as "social Darwinism" that makes Newt Gingrich’s 1994 "Contract with America look like the New Deal." Only the most biased partisan could view these remarks as bearing a relationship to reality.

Back in 2008, Obama presented himself as a different kind of Democrat, one who would rise above the partisan bickering of the past, someone who wouldn’t "kick the can down the road." As recently as 2010, he presented himself as someone open to constructive, bipartisan approaches to entitlement reform.

It’s clear now that Obama is more interested in campaigning against, rather than standing up for, serious reform. A lengthy account from the Washington Post details how the President undermined last summer’s debt-ceiling negotiations by issuing last-minute demands that Congress was not in a position to meet.

The Obama campaign’s theory is that raising taxes on the rich—something that has little-to-no effect on the structural deficit—will play better with independents than real fiscal reform. Romney’s theory is that entitlement reform is too important to take a politically cowardly stance. Wherever your political loyalties lie, it’s clear whose approach is the more admirable one.

Original Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2012/04/16/how-mitt-romney-paul-ryan-and-some-democrats-are-holding-hands-on-entitlement-reform/

 

 
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