Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee, told conservative talk radio host Charlie Sykes Monday morning that House Republicans had demanded a one-year delay in Obamacare’s individual mandate, along with an end to congressional exemptions, while offering a six-week debt ceiling hike to allow room for negotiations on broader budget issues. The offer was made to President Barack Obama last Thursday.
President Obama, said Ryan, listened but declined to respond. In the meantime, Ryan said, it became clear the president was negotiating separately to obtain more favorable terms from Senate Republicans, trying to “jam” the House Republicans in the process. Ryan told Sykes that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had “overplayed their hand” in attempting to prolong the crisis to maximize political damage to Republicans.
Ryan described the delay to the individual mandate as an “obvious” step to take, given that technical issues with the Obamacare exchanges might prevent the mandate from being enforced at all. “We could have spent the weekend putting an agreement together that says we’re gonna deal with the debt, we’re gonna deal with this economy, and we’re gonna fix these big flaws in Obamacare, or at least give people delays in these penalties.”
Instead, he said, the President and his party had declined, believing that they had a “partisan advantage.” In response to new demands from Democrats to cancel the sequester cuts in the Budget Control Act of 2011, Ryan declared: “We are not going to give on these spending numbers.” He said that there were some areas of agreement on changes to entitlements, but that Democrats wanted to spend more money and preserve Obamacare.
Ryan said that he believed the strategy of attempting to defund Obamacare had been a mistake, because the government shutdown would not have prevented Obamacare from being implemented. “It’s an autopilot spending program,” he said, saying that the idea Obamacare could be defunded was a “false impression.” He added, however, that the focus needed to shift to the damage Obamacare was causing to consumers and the economy.
“I do believe that we can still get some changes made to Obamacare that help provide some relief to working Americans,” Ryan said. He was optimistic that the House would craft a workable plan for avoiding default following a meeting of the GOP caucus on Monday evening. “I didn’t go to Congress to kick the can,” he said, noting that his biggest fear was that “a handful of Republicans” in the Senate would join Democrats to “jam” the House.