Ryan disputes contention that his Medicare plan is unpopular

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Ryan boldly said yesterday he didn't care about the polls, and it was up to true leaders (a total dig at President Obama) to buck them to stand up for the right policies.

DAVID GREGORY: Yeah, but wait a second. But that really is a dodge. You are the chairman of the committee, yes. You're serious about entitlement reform, yes. You're also a politician. You say you want to do it on your terms. Law does not become law without building political consensus. And you don't have that. And now you had a major figure in the Republican Party say, "This was right wing social engineering." So I'm wondering how much you do feel undercut in actually getting this passed, which, I assume, is your goal.

First of all, if people are describing this accurately in polls, it's far more popular than the poll you've referenced. Second of all, leaders are elected to lead. I don't consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls.

And we are leading in the House. We are not seeing this kind of leadership from the president of the United States. The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days. And we have a budget crisis. So yes, we are going to lead, and we are going to try and move these polls and change these polls, because that's what the country wants.

I just did 19 town hall meetings, David, in the district that I work for that went for Obama, Dukakis, Clinton and Gore. People are hungry for solutions. And I really, fundamentally believe that the people are way ahead of the political class.

And I think they're going to reward the leader who steps up to the plate and actually fixes these problems, no matter how much demagoguery, no matter how much distortion, no matter how much political parties try to scare seniors in the next election. I just don't they're going to buy it this year. And they're hungry for leaders to fix this problem before it gets out of our control.

It's absolutely refreshing to hear a pol disdain polls. Because that ABC News/Washington Post poll released last month showed an overwhelming 78 percent of Americans are opposed to Medicare cuts, which he may or may be aware of.

Ryan did say that he is open to amending his plan, something we don't recall hearing from him previously, and an indication that as composed, the Ryan plan could prove to be a political loser for Republicans in 2012, and thus he was open to those who have a different plan to amend it, vs. Democrats who are lobbing scare tactics simply to win votes and not deal with the issue.

That sounds like what Newt Gingrich was saying in a somewhat testy encounter with CBS' Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation on Sunday.

Gingrich, battered and bruised for criticizing Ryan's plan last Sunday on Meet The Press and then madly backtracking from it all week, said the Ryan plan was just the beginning of a conversation with the American public on dealing with the tough choice that is Medicare, which eats up a good chunk of the U.S. Treasury (as do Medicaid, Social Security and defense).

Gingrich on Face The Nation:

"We Republicans have to go to the country, we have to explain what we're trying to accomplish to save Medicare, how we would save Medicare," he said. "I believe the Republicans should start with the Ryan plan, should go to the country and explain it, but should listen to the American people and, where necessary, modify it. This is what Paul Ryan believes. It won't be a 'yes or no.'"

This, Gingrich says, is the sentiment he was trying to express last week.

"That was my point," Gingrich told Schieffer. "I probably used unfortunate language about social engineering. My point was a larger one - that neither party should impose on the American people something that they are deeply opposed to.

Incidentally, Harry Reid wants to put Senate Republicans on the record on how they feel about that budget that the House passed earlier this year that includes Ryan's proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox News Sunday that he does support the Ryan plan, but gave his GOP colleagues a couple of other options yesterday, showing that he's aware that it might be suicidal for some Republicans to back Ryan's plan. Then again, Mitch said it wasn't going to a Democratic led Senate anyhow, so what's the big deal?

McConnell:What I'm willing to say is we're going to have to change Medicare, and it's going to happen soon. It's going to happen in connection with the talks going on with the Vice President that are happening right now, and it's going to happen in connection with raising the debt ceiling, which the President has asked us to do.

And all of these budgets are interesting to discuss and debate, but none of them are going to pass. What is going to pass at some point, is something, Chris, related to Medicare and Medicaid, in connection with raising the debt ceiling this summer.

Paul Ryan
  • Paul Ryan

Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan's plan to dismantle Medicare as we know that House Republicans passed earlier this year is by far the domestic political idea of the year, regardless of whether you loath it or love it.

It's unquestionably moved President Obama and Congressional Democrats to come back with their own ideas on entitlement reform, as the issues of how to contend with the country's debt and deficit only becoming greater with a vote on raising the debt limit approaching this summer.

But in the wake of Newt Gingrich's now infamous remarks last week that Ryan's plan is "right-wing social engineering," the apt question posed by NBC Meet The Press host David Gregory on Sunday was: would Ryan have the political consensus to get such a measure passed, if Republicans controlled the Senate and the White House, which they don't at this time?

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