Ryan Weak on Obamacare? Are You Serious?

I find the suggestion that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) does not truly oppose Obamacare rather amusing. 

The basis of the charge is that he does not mention the word “Obamacare” in his op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal about ways to end the current Washington stalemate and solve the country’s long-term fiscal problems. 

The op-ed does talk about “a complete rethinking of government’s approach to health care,” though. For what that’s worth. 

More than that, Ryan has certainly done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt on this issue. Recall that at when the Simpson-Bowles commission produced its recommendations in late 2010, Ryan was a “no” vote, even though he sat on the commission and agreed with many of its ideas. 

The reason for his opposition: Simpson-Bowles assumed that spending on Obamacare would continue. Ryan could not accept that, knowing its effects on our long-term debt.

Here’s how Politifact recalled that stance, in a 2012 piece that was highly critical of Ryan:

In his official statement, Ryan praised aspects of the proposal, saying that while “I could not support the plan in its entirety, many of its elements surely are worthy of further pursuit.”

On the downside, though, Ryan cited a failure to do enough to reduce future health care costs, as well as its approach to taxes, as reasons to vote against it. “Their proposal is a serious and credible plan, but I cannot support it,” he said at the time.

On health care, Ryan said a vote for the report would advance the new Obama health care law, which he and other Republicans opposed. “My primary concern with this plan is health care,” Ryan said at a news conference with other members of the panel. “I do not believe that this sufficiently fixes the health care problem. And, guess what, our debt problem is the health care problem.”

He elaborated in a news release, “This plan not only lacks needed structural reforms, but would in fact take us in the wrong direction on health care by accelerating the adverse consequences of the president’s health care law.”

So Paul Ryan was for defunding Obamacare long before Ted Cruz had even run for Senate. (I say this as a supporter of Cruz, as well as his “defund” strategy.) Ryan has not changed his position on defunding Obamacare, and took more than a few bullets for it on the campaign trail in 2012. 

The fact that Ryan sees an opportunity to change that law as part of an even bigger picture is evidence of creative thinking, not capitulation. He deserves credit for that.