Politics & Government

Pass the salt: Breakfast with Paul Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. (Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor)
Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. (Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor) The Christian Science Monitor

Will the GOP’s number-two on the 2012 ticket look to head it in 2016?

“I’m just doing my job focusing on the here and the now,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said of his presidential ambitions during a breakfast with reporters Wednesday.

Any decision of whether run or not will come in 2015 after discussion with his family, Ryan said, spending most of the hour-long event talking about new and forthcoming proposals that seemed to cement that he’ll indeed make a run for the presidency.

The fit and trim Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, and under Republican internal rules is likely to head the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee when the 114th Congress convenes next year. That would put in him in the headlines should he run for the highest office.

By 2015, the political landscape may have changed and control of both the House of Representatives and Senate could be in GOP hands.

Ryan works the room like a polished pol, exchanging firm-gripped handshakes. He notices one reporter isn’t wearing glasses and asks if he had laser eye surgery.

“Did you get a haircut,” he asks another at breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Then the event begins, and he’s all business. Sitting in front of a plateful of scrambled eggs, Ryan touts his recent proposal to consolidate numerous federal anti-poverty programs under a single umbrella.

The youthful chairman was pilloried by Democrats when he offered a detailed proposal for revamping Medicare, so the new anti-poverty proposal came out as a discussion draft with no “pay-fors” included.

“I didn’t want to get into a funding debate,” said Ryan, adding, “The point is the status quo isn’t working.”

On criticism that the GOP has tried to defund with Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, without an alternative, Ryan has a plan. It’ll be released in the fall, ahead of November mid-term elections, but he wants to make sure his numbers add up_ “scoring” as it’s known in budget-wonk speak.

“That’s what’s been keeping me from putting something out,” he said.

On a host of other issues, they’ll wait until the next congress when Republicans could be in control and/or Ryan could be seeking the nation’s highest office.

Among them, measures to halt the practice of U.S. companies moving headquarters abroad to tax havens. President Barack Obama wants that issue, called tax inversions, dealt with now. Ryan and the GOP say do it as part of a broader effort to lower corporate taxes.

“We’ve heard crickets from the administration,” he said, calling both it and an expansion of tax credits for the childless working poor “next-session” issues.

Heaping praise on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., for a “heroic” comprehensive tax- reform plan, Ryan omitted that in February House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, dismissed its details as “blah, blah, blah.”

Ryan backs Boehner’s lawsuit against administration executive orders that the president insists are intended to bypass congressional gridlock.

“We want to show that we’re not going to take this lying down,” he said.

If the orders are so egregious, why not impeachment proceedings against Obama?

“This doesn’t rise to the ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ level,” Ryan responded.

On scrapping funding for the Export-Import Bank, which Republicans are blocking after decades without scant criticism, Ryan is open to reform proposals. But he opposed the bank conceptually because he feels it props up and subsidizes big companies.

So taxpayers are propping up aircraft maker Boeing, one of the biggest backers and beneficiaries of the Ex-Im Bank and a major employer in the states of South Carolina and Washington? Ryan answered affirmative.

“I think Boeing can do well without the Ex-Im Bank,” Ryan said.

Breakfast over, Ryan quickly folded a newspaper and briskly headed out the door without chit chat. The business at hand was over.