POLITICS
05/17/2011 11:54 pm ET | Updated Jul 17, 2011

Newt Gingrich Apologizes To Paul Ryan For Criticism Of Medicare Reform Proposal

ATLANTA — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has apologized to congressman Paul Ryan for criticizing his proposal to overhaul Medicare.

Spokesmen for both Gingrich and Ryan tell The Associated Press that the former House speaker called Ryan on Tuesday and offered an apology.

Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney said the Wisconsin Republican accepted Gingrich's apology. Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler says the call to Ryan "went very well."

"I made a mistake and I called Paul Ryan today, who's a very close personal friend -- and I said that," said the presidential candidate during an appearance on Fox News. "The fact is that I have supported what Ryan's trying to do on the budget … the budget vote is one that I am happy to say I would have voted for, I will defend, and I will answer any Democrat who attempts to distort what I said."

The House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan proposes replacing Medicare with vouchers that older Americans could use to purchase private health insurance coverage.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Gingrich labeled Ryan's proposal a "radical" change that would reshape the popular government entitlement program and "right-wing social engineering."

“What you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose it,” he said. “I am against Obamacare imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”

Gingrich likened the proposal, in its dramatic scope, to the health law President Barack Obama has championed.

On his more recent appearance on Fox News, Gingrich said, "Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood and because I have said publicly, those words were inaccurate and unfortunate." He added, "I'm prepared to stand up -- when I make a mistake and I'm going to on occasion, I want to stand up and share with the American people, that was a mistake, because that way, we can have an honest conversation."

Last month, in an interview with the New York Times, Gingrich warned Republicans to exercise caution in pursuing entitlement reform.

“I think it is a dangerous political exercise,” he said. “This is not something that Republicans can afford to handle lightly.”

The AP reported on Tuesday:

Ryan said Monday that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich does not fully understand a GOP proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, dismissing criticism from the former House speaker that the plan would be a radical change.

"I just think he's missing the mark on what our plan actually does," Ryan, chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, told reporters after a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago. "Our plan is one of the most gradual things one could do," because it would not affect people over age 55 and would not kick in for 10 years.

The Des Moines Register relayed earlier this week what Gingrich had to say in addressing allegations of flip-flopping.

"The challenges that we face are so big, that no one has the solutions," he said. "And we’re going to have to run a campaign where ideas keep evolving."

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