Vieira to Paul Ryan: It Feels Like the GOP is Out For 'Revenge'

NBC's Meredith Vieira wasted no time in jumping down Paul Ryan's throat, on Wednesday's Today show, as she said it appeared the Republican Party did not care as much about creating jobs, since they seemed to be more focused on repealing Obamacare, which the Today co-anchor characterized as "an act of revenge." For his part the Wisconsin Republican Congressman responded that repealing Obamacare law had everything to do with creating jobs since, as he educated Vieira, "The health care bill has massive tax increases on individuals and employers that will cost us jobs," as seen in the following exchange:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: As of today Republicans control the House, and as Matt just brought up, one of the key points on your agenda will be attempting to repeal the health care plan. But given the fact you do not have the votes in the Senate, as Senator McCain just pointed out, and the President has veto power. And also given the fact that the American voters, in the midterm elections, made it clear that what they care about most right now are jobs and the economy, why go down this path at all? It almost feels like an act of revenge on the part of the Republican Party?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Well, first of all, this is related to jobs and the economy. The health care bill has massive tax increases on individuals and employers that will cost us jobs. So this, don't think that this isn't related to jobs.

(video after the jump)

Vieira went on to belittle House Republicans' move to cut their own budgets but then cited the New York Times to claim they were "backtracking" on their promises to cut spending, which was yet another error Ryan was forced to correct as seen in this back and forth:

VIEIRA: Let's talk about cutting spending, because the Republicans, you among them, made a vow, a pledge to the American people back in the fall, that you would cut spending by $100 billion this year. But the New York Times says you're already backtracking on that. And all we've really heard about is trimming your own congressional budget by about $35 million, which is really a drop in the bucket. So are you reneging on that promise?

RYAN: No we're not reneging on it. First of all, a five percent cut in our budgets, we don't think is a drop. We think it's an important first step but the problem with the $100 billion point was we said we are going to bring spending down to 2008 levels. We are halfway through the fiscal year right now. So the problem is half the spending caps are already out of the bag and that is why that number has become compromised. We are still going to bring spending down to the level that we said we would bring spending that. But the savings that you achieve from doing so, halfway through the fiscal year, isn't as great as it was when we were talking about this a year ago.

The following is a transcript of the entire interview as it was aired on the January 5 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is one of the so-called Young Guns of the GOP and the incoming chair of the House Budget committee. Congressman Ryan, good morning to you.

REP. PAUL RYAN: Good morning, Meredith.

VIEIRA: As of today Republicans control the House, and as Matt just brought up, one of the key points on your agenda will be attempting to repeal the health care plan. But given the fact you do not have the votes in the Senate, as Senator McCain just pointed out, and the President has veto power. And also given the fact that the American voters, in the midterm elections, made it clear that what they care about most right now are jobs and the economy, why go down this path at all? It almost feels like an act of revenge on the part of the Republican Party?

RYAN: Well, first of all, this is related to jobs and the economy. The health care bill has massive tax increases on individuals and employers that will cost us jobs. So this, don't think that this isn't related to jobs. Second point is we need a pledge-

VIEIRA: So that's why you're going after it specifically?

RYAN: Second point is we made a pledge to the American people, in our Pledge to America, that we would bring up, repeal this health care bill. So we're simply keeping our word to the people that we gave before the election. Thirdly, we think this health care bill is really a house of cards. When you take away all the budget gimmicks it has about a $700 billion budget deficit. It's gonna raise health care costs. It's gonna involve the government in more of a job of taking over health care and I think it's gonna lead to Medicare rationing. So this is not a popular health care law. The election was very clear about that.

VIEIRA: But do you think-

RYAN: But what are we doing today?

VIEIRA: But do you Congressman-

RYAN: Today we're gonna start cutting our own budgets. Today we're gonna start cutting our own budgets. Today we're gonna cut our budgets. We're gonna focus on cutting spending and growing jobs and the economy. That is our priority. Cut spending, grow jobs in the economy and yes we will bring a repeal of this health care bill because we think, in the interest of the economy, it is important to repeal and replace this health care bill.

VIEIRA: Let's talk about cutting spending, because the Republicans, you among them, made a vow, a pledge to the American people back in the fall, that you would cut spending by $100 billion this year. But the New York Times says you're already backtracking on that. And all we've really heard about is trimming your own congressional budget by about $35 million, which is really a drop in the bucket. So are you reneging on that promise?

RYAN: No we're not reneging on it. First of all, a five percent cut in our budgets, we don't think is a drop. We think it's an important first step but the problem with the $100 billion point was we said we are going to bring spending down to 2008 levels. We are halfway through the fiscal year right now. So the problem is half the spending caps are already out of the bag and that is why that number has become compromised. We are still going to bring spending down to the level that we said we would bring spending that. But the savings that you achieve from doing so, halfway through the fiscal year, isn't as great as it was when we were talking about this a year ago.


VIEIRA: You know you, Republicans made it very clear that they won't cut spending for the military, veterans or domestic security.

RYAN: Right.

VIEIRA: Those are three areas where they will not cut spending. Give me three areas, today, where you would be clearly comfortable with cutting spending, no matter how difficult it is, you would be able to do it.

RYAN: Right, so if you want to get a sense of where we're headed with this, look at where spending was in 2008 on government agencies and discretionary domestic agencies and that's where we intend on going. So what we said in the Pledge for America is we're gonna take spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, non-security spending. You know we do have a war on terror right now. We do have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq right now. We don't want to pull the rug out from under those operations because we want to give our troops what they need and the tools they need to be successful. But all of the spending that has occurred over here - domestic discretionary spending went up with stimulus, Meredith, by 84 percent over the last two years. The base spending, which is what moves, what we call the baseline, went up 24 percent. So the spending spree is over, as far as we're concerned here in the House.

VIEIRA: But can you even be more specific? You say discretionary spending. Give me specifics. Where are you gonna cut? You gonna cut education, transportation - what are you gonna cut?

RYAN: That is what is gonna happen in the appropriations process, down the road. So I can't tell you the answer to that because, as a Budget Committee person, we simply lower the cap and then those, those things go down. We're gonna be reducing all discretionary spending. I can't tell you by what amount and which program but all of it is going down. And the aggregate amount will be back to 2008 levels before the spending binge occurred.

VIEIRA: Alright Congressman Paul Ryan. Thank you very much. And good luck to you.

RYAN: Thank you.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.