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Ryan Says Election No Referendum on Entitlements

Rep. Paul D. Ryan does not see Republican losses in last week’s elections as a referendum on the deep cuts he has proposed to entitlement programs, reductions that party leaders say should be part of the negotiations over fiscal cliff tax and spending issues.

“I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare, we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” the GOP vice presidential nominee told WISC-TV in his home state of Wisconsin Monday night.

Ryan’s blueprint for controlling government spending, which he called the Path to Prosperity, included a controversial proposal to overhaul the Medicare system over time to give seniors and other recipients direct payments to buy health insurance. Opponents called the plan a “voucher” system and said it would jeopardize the Medicare guarantee.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and other Republicans have made reform of entitlement programs central to discussions regarding the expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts that are due to take effect at the start of next year.

The budget resolution (H Con Res 112) Ryan authored, and which the House passed in March without any Democratic support, would cut government spending by more than $5 trillion over the next decade from the Obama administration’s budget. It also would set the discretionary spending cap for spending in the current 2013 fiscal year at $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion level agreed to in the August 2011 debt limit deal (PL 112-25).

The GOP plan sought to impose large cuts on other social programs, including by converting federal funding into block grants to states for Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The conversion would save $810 billion over 10 years in Medicaid costs and $123 billion in the food stamp program.

Ryan and running mate Mitt Romney insisted during the campaign that the changes to Medicare would not affect seniors for years to come. Romney also distanced himself from the cuts to food stamps, saying in October that the way to reduce the number of people receiving the benefits is by getting them jobs, “not by cutting the program.”

An icon of party conservatives, Ryan was an important liaison for House GOP leaders to its tea party members over the past two years and his support for any agreement during the lame duck likely will be critical in winning support of rank-and-file party members.

He suggested in his first interviews after the election that he expects to take part in negotiating a compromise on the fiscal issues. “We offered specific solutions,” in the campaign, Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in an interview published Monday. “It didn’t go our way. So obviously we’re disappointed by that. We’re not going to be able to fix this country’s fiscal problems along the way I thought we should have.”

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