Remember the House Republican budget plan, as crafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)? It caused quite a stir several months ago when it, among other things, tried to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme.
Nearly every GOP lawmaker in the House and Senate voted for the monstrosity, but the American mainstream hated it, and Democrats used it to win a special election in Buffalo — flipping a district that Republicans had held for decades.
The expectation was that congressional Republican leaders might push for some of the budget plan’s measure in debt-ceiling talks, but when push came to shove, the GOP didn’t even bother. The proposals were just too unpopular, and the more Republicans pushed them, the more likely it was that they’d put their majority in jeopardy in 2012.
Four months later, Paul Ryan apparently has a very different take on the developments.
In a speech at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered a recitation of his controversial, alternative vision for the country’s social safety net.
But despite the backlash Republicans have faced taken since they voted overwhelmingly in the spring to adopt his approach, Ryan says now’s the time for conservatives and GOP candidates to renew their support for that vision, not to walk away from it.
“[W]e took a few dings at first, we survived,” Ryan admitted. “The Democrats’ tried the same old scare tactics for a few months, and in the first special election that took place after our budget passed, we learned a costly lesson. We learned that unless we back up our ideas with courage, and defend them in the face of attacks, we will lose.”
What’s more, in his speech, Ryan proudly boasted that “a funny thing happened” after Republicans started to get their “message out” — namely, “the scare tactics stopped working.”
In no way does this resemble reality.
Democratic criticism of Ryan’s radical budget plan stopped, not because the accurate attacks failed, but because Republicans abandoned the proposal. Indeed, Ryan became a notorious and unpopular public figure for a while, prompting the right-wing Ayn Rand acolyte to take on a much lower public profile.
But if Paul Ryan wants to make the case that his radical vision actually resonates with the American mainstream, I suspect Democrats would be delirious with joy if the Republican Party listened to the right-wing Wisconsinite’s advice. Indeed, if Dems are really lucky, the political world can have this debate all over again.
Let’s have Republican lawmakers re-declare their support for the Ryan plan. Let’s get the Republican presidential candidates on record, yea or nay, on whether the Ryan plan would get their signature.
Paul Ryan wants his party to renew their support for his vision? That sounds like a terrific idea. What do you say, Republicans? How about it, Mitt Romney?
Update: The DCCC appears eager to call Ryan’s bluff. Just a couple of minutes after I posted this, Greg Sargent reported, “I’m told the DCCC plans to go on the offensive in the districts of 50 House Republicans, pressuring them to say whether they agree with Ryan’s latest designs on the health care system.”
And just as aside, Greg noted that GOP officials believe their success in the NY09 special election proves the Ryan plan is no longer a winner for Dems. That might be true if Bob Turner had actually endorsed the Ryan plan, but he didn’t.