Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) appears to be publicly backing away from his controversial budget roadmap. In a conference call with reporters on Monday, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee said his budget plan may not guide Republicans if they win the majority in November.
First, Ryan made sure to note that he doesn't "represent the Republican Party" and wrote his two roadmaps "as an individual in Congress, not as the chairman-- the ranking member of the Budget Committee." He then stressed that budgets need to be written with the "consensus" of the Republican caucus:
When I write budgets, those are as the ranking member or chairman of the Budget Committee, which are done in a consensus way. So what I will do, whether I'm ranking or chairman, is try to get consensus on a budget going forward. Now, one thing I can tell you, is we're going to stop the spending spree. That's for sure. What are the details going forward? I can't answer that question because I've got to reach a consensus among my caucus. [...]
I'll simply say this: If we pass a plan to get our entitlement situation under control in the long term, that will help us in the short term. If we show the credit markets and the economy that we're doing the necessary changes -- in my view, the roadmap doesn't affect the benefits for anybody over the age of 55, and that's sort of what's lost in the demagoguery of this campaign. What I'm saying, if you act now, or very soon, if you're in or near retirement or 10 years away from retirement, this isn't about you. This is about the younger generation reforming these programs so that they're sustainable, so that they work better, and we pay off our debt over time. And if you pass a plan like that now, which affects the future, it will actually affect us in the present, because it shows us that we're not going down the path of Europe, that we're not courting a debt. We're pre-empting a debt crisis.
Publicly, most of his party isn't going along with his roadmap of steep cuts. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has taken pains to distance himself from Ryan's plan, saying, "Paul Ryan, who's the ranking member on our budget committee, has done an awful lot of work in putting together his roadmap. But it's his. And I know the Democrats are trying to say that it's the Republican leadership. But they know that's not the case." So far, there are just 13 co-sponsors in the House.
Privately, however, the House leadership seems much more supportive. In February, Ryan told Talking Points Memo that GOP leaders were "absolutely" supportive of what he was doing, and Boehner couldn't name a single item that he disagreed with in the roadmap. As the Huffington Post has reported, several Republicans in top-tier congressional races have also come out and embraced the roadmap. So while Ryan and the GOP are publicly distancing themselves from the roadmap, privately it may still be guiding their agenda.