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House Republicans Divided on Debt Strategy

Steel, meanwhile, ripped Democrats’ weeklong volley of attacks targeting the “Republican plan,” which included broadsides from White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, the Democratic National Committee and practically every Member of House Democratic leadership. “It is sad that at a point that they control the House, Senate and the White House they are so bereft of ideas they are taking one bill from one Republican Member of the House and holding blogger calls and conference calls about it,” Steel added.

Ryan himself has offered blistering comebacks to the Democratic attacks, accusing them of pursuing demagoguery instead of the bipartisanship they claim to seek.

“It’s obvious that they’ve not even read the plan, that they are mischaracterizing the plan, and they have decided to vilify any attempt to deal with our fiscal situation,” Ryan said.

Ryan said it was easier for Democrats to attack him than to offer a plan of their own. “I am one guy from Wisconsin who put a plan out there that [the Congressional Budget Office] says does the job. ... Even the president of the United States hasn’t put a plan out there.”

There was a prickly jousting between Ryan and Orszag at a budget hearing last week, with Orszag having to admit that the president’s budget was unsustainable and repeatedly punting to the idea of a bipartisan fiscal commission.

Ryan said he doesn’t expect every other Republican to sign on to his ideas and said they shouldn’t be attacked for his proposal. “I am not the leader of the Republican Party, and I don’t expect everyone to agree to what I’m proposing,” he said.

But Ryan said he found it ironic that President Barack Obama singled out his plan as a serious one worthy of debate when he appeared before Republicans in an unprecedented televised question-and-answer period only to find his plan pilloried nonstop by the Democratic Party at full roar for the following week.

“It guarantees benefits for people, which is more than what the Democrats are doing,” Ryan said. “These programs are going bankrupt. We save these programs for future generations, and, yes, spending increases every year for these programs,” Ryan said.

Democrats, meanwhile, called the Ryan proposal a political gift and said that Republicans enjoyed a relatively free ride last year because Democrats were busy passing ambitious bill after bill and the press had little time or inclination to delve deeply into the Republican alternatives.

That will change now that Republicans are seen as having the potential to return to power, Democratic aides said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), one of the most skilled Democratic attack dogs who hails from the senior-filled Sunshine State, ripped the Ryan plan as the “Screw America’s Seniors Act” and predicted Republicans wouldn’t be able to run from it fast enough.

“This is the ‘emperor has no clothes’ moment,” she said. “They’ve given us a glimpse behind the curtain, and I’m glad they did it in February,” she said.

One aide called Ryan’s plan a “tone deaf” proposal that is starting to mobilize and unite the Democratic Party.

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