Updated: 11:55 a.m.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said on Sunday he doesn’t have high expectations for the new savings “super committee” because Democrats won’t consider changes to health care reform.
“I’m not putting my stock in this committee,” the Wisconsin lawmaker said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think people are overemphasizing what this committee is going to achieve. ... I don’t think a grand bargain is going to come out of this because [Democrats] aren’t willing to put health care reform on the table.”
The debt ceiling deal passed last week mandated the formation of a 12-member bipartisan, bicameral committee tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in additional budget savings before Thanksgiving, prolonging many of the ugliest, most partisan debates that have dominated Washington in recent months. Lawmakers and lobbyists spent the past week trying to figure out who would be on the committee and how to protect their interests now in the hands of a dozen lawmakers with almost unfettered and unprecedented power.
Ryan said that if asked, he would serve on the committee and said he thinks the panel could tackle an overhaul of the tax system.
“I think the best thing we can do in divided government is fundamental tax reform,” the Budget chairman said. “I think that would be a pro-growth strategy.”
The political sniping only increased over the weekend in the wake of Standard & Poor’s announcement Friday night that it had lowered the long-term credit rating for the United States from AAA to AA+.
Although many experts describe the downgrade as a symbolic and psychological event rather than an economic one, the renewed sense of uncertainty fueled political posturing.
Sen. John Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the S&P announcement came because conservatives were too inflexible during the debt negotiations.
“I believe without question that this is the tea party downgrade because a minority in the House of Representatives countered the will of many of the Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do an even bigger deal,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.
“We saw this coming,” Ryan said on Fox News, adding that the House-passed budget would have prevented the downgrade in the first place. “Over the past few years we’ve gone deeply in the wrong direction. ... Unfortunately, the president and Democrats have always been unwilling to put entitlements on the table.”
Kerry urged the passage of the highway reauthorization bill sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), as well as the overhaul of the patent system, which is awaiting Senate approval, saying both measures would help save jobs.
“We have to be statesmen here,” Kerry said. “We have to find the happy middle ground. ... I know John McCain [R-Ariz.] is prepared to do it, and I’d like to see the House of Representatives do it too.”