If you want to tell me that the so-called "super committee" -- empaneled last year as a last-ditch attempt to reach a compromise on budget alignment -- was a stupid idea, you'll get no argument from me. It clearly was a stupid idea, premised on the belief that you could hang a Sword of Damocles over the Congress in the form of severe cuts to defense and discretionary spending to inspire the legislators involved to cut a deal. It was pretty to think that the GOP members would be urgently pressed to make a deal, lest the Pentagon suffer the agreed-upon "trigger" cuts, but the smarter prediction was that they'd look past the triggers entirely, and try to blame the massive defense cuts on the White House during the election year -- which is precisely what's happening now.
But those who agreed to the deal ... agreed to the deal! And vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is in that cohort of legislators. On Sunday, CBS News' Norah O'Donnell made mention of this fact, and Ryan opted to pretend that he didn't vote for the things for which he voted. ThinkProgress' Zach Beauchamp covered the exchange:
O'DONNELL: So, you voted for defense cuts. And now you're criticizing the president for those same defense cuts that you voted for and called a victory.
RYAN: No, no, I have to correct you on this, Norah. I voted for a mechanism that says a sequester will occur if we don't cut $1.2 trillion spending in government. We offered $1.2 trillion in various -- the super committee offered it. We passed in the House a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere. The senate's done nothing. President Obama's done nothing.
I wrote another bill, passed it, got signed into law, Democrats supported us, President Obama -- If he is not going to help us with a plan to prevent those defense cuts by substituting them from elsewhere, what's his plan for the sequester? He's ignoring the law. He was supposed to give these to us yesterday.
So the problem, Norah, is we've led. We wanted to have a bipartisan agreement. We got that. And the president hasn't fulfilled his end of the bipartisan agreement.
The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur, the goal is that we get to work and cut spending so that we prevent those defense cuts. We've done that. The president hasn't.
O'DONNELL: Congressman, it's my understanding that as part of the Budget Control Act there was not just the sequestration, the defense sequestration, but there is also $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts, which included the defense cuts, almost $400 billion that were proposed by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mr. Dempsey, as well as Secretary Panetta. And you also voted for those.
And now you're saying that you didn't vote for them?
RYAN: We can get into this nomenclature. I voted for the Budget Control Act but the Obama administration proposed $470 billion in defense cuts. We don't agree with that. Our budget rejected that. And then on top of that is another $500 billion in defense cuts.
O'DONNELL: Right, it's a trillion in defense spending. And you voted for it.
RYAN: No, Norah, I voted for the Budget Control Act.
O'DONNELL: That included defense spending.
RYAN: Norah, you're mistaken.
O’Donnell is, in fact, not mistaken. The Budget Control Act, as passed, included both the roughly $600 billion in “sequestration” cuts that will happen if there’s no compromise on the budget by December as well as the $487 billion of military-supported cuts that will take place regardless. The fact that Ryan may have wished that the bill didn’t contain said defense cuts does not absolve him of the fact that he and 201 other Republicans voted for the bill as-passed.
Additionally, it's sort of hard to square Ryan's new position with the one he took after he helped pass the Budget Control Act, which you can find on Ryan's House website:
“The Budget Control Act represents a victory for those committed to controlling government spending and growing our economy. I applaud Speaker Boehner’s leadership in stopping tax increases on job creators, rejecting President Obama’s demands for a blank check to keep borrowing, and advancing real spending cuts and controls. The agreement – while far from perfect – underscores the extent to which the new House majority has successfully changed Washington’s culture of spending. No longer can Washington endlessly spend money it does not have.
And he delivered a statement on the floor of the House, praising the act as a rare show of bipartisanship. Note the kind words he had then for the sequestration cuts:
RYAN: Let me just sum up by saying this, Mr. Speaker. This debate, it's very clear that we have differences of opinions. We have different philosophies on how to address these issues. But we're coming up to a deadline that we all must recognize: default. And so what this has done, it has brought our two parties together. So I would just like to take a second to reflect for a moment that we have a bipartisan compromise here. That doesn't happen all that often around here; so I think that's worth noting. That's a good thing.
First off, as my colleague from Texas has just said, this is a down payment on the problem. It's a good step in the right direction, and it is a huge cultural change to this institution. Both parties got us in this mess. Both parties are going to have to work together to get us out of this mess, and the real problem, I would add, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that we spend way more money than we take in. We have to address that.
To my friends on the left, I think they would like to take comfort in the fact the way these spending cuts are designed and the way the sequester is designed.
To my friends on the right, we are cutting spending. We have been trying to get discretionary caps in law for years. I have been here 13 years trying for it every year, this is the first time.
So it's not just that Ryan is denying voting for the defense cuts he voted for -- he's denying voting for the defense cuts he praised as a necessary component to a "bipartisan compromise" that he termed both a "good thing" and a "huge cultural change" to Congress.
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