CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When it emerged Wednesday that Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan had sought federal money through the health care reform bill that he has vowed to repeal, the campaign was ready with a quick response.
"This grant program was created by President Bush, not Obamacare. This ... type of misinformation is what you get from gotcha reporting on liberal blogs," Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said, taking a swipe at The Nation.
In December 2010, Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, wrote to a Department of Health and Human Services official seeking a grant for a new community health center in Racine, Wis., which is located in his congressional district, according to a letter obtained by The Nation and The Investigative Fund.
It's true that former President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress doubled funding for community health centers in what was Bush's largest effort to address lack of access to health care for the poor.
But contrary to the response from the Romney-Ryan campaign, the money Ryan asked for would have come directly from President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The health care law boosts funding by $11 billion for the country's roughly 8,000 community health centers that treat more than 20 million people. That money comes on top of a $2 billion increase for community health centers that was part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.
Ryan's letter apparently didn't help: The Health Resources and Services Administration did not grant the money the Kenosha Community Health Center wanted to spend opening the Racine clinic, according to agency spokesman Richard Olague.
But the response from Ryan's spokesman also raises a question about the candidate's philosophy on federal spending on health care: Why would he consider dollars approved by Bush to be a good use of money, but funds approved by Obama to be bad?
"Don’t dumb things down," Buck suggested to HuffPost. "You think he’s opposed to all federal spending on health care? Health care spending makes up a significant portion of his budget."
On the specific program in question, related to community health centers, Buck said Ryan was merely supporting a constituent. "It's casework," he said. "As a general principle he's not going to turn away his constituents who come to him for help based on his own views of a program."
When Ryan was elected in 1998, President Bill Clinton and the Republican-led Congress were working with a balanced budget. But under the George W. Bush administration, spending on tax cuts, wars and a prescription drug benefit plan for Medicare added trillions to the deficit -- all of which Ryan backed.
Ryan has tried to tap other programs for money while publicly opposing them. Ryan sought stimulus money for home-state groups and campaign contributors. He also voted against the auto industry bailout, yet criticized Obama during the Republican National Convention for not saving a General Motors plant in his hometown that was already shutting down when Obama took office.
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