Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Thursday offered up Democratic talking points as he discussed a new set of Republican promises, should the GOP win Congress. The skeptical host interviewed Representative Paul Ryan and repeated, "You heard the President. He said this is the exact same agenda as Republicans had before he came to office. How is it different?"
In a tease for the segment, he spun, "Republicans unveil their plan for America: Cutting taxes and repealing health care." It may seem like a small distinction but Republicans oppose the new law, not the concept of Americans having health care.
Stephanopoulos repeatedly grilled the GOP Congressman: "...The two central items in the agenda, are extending the tax cuts passed under President Bush. Repealing the health care law by President Obama. Those are going to cost at least $4 trillion over the next ten years. And your- your pledge doesn't spell out anything close to paying for that $4 trillion."
He followed up by pressing, "But, you say a path to balance. But, you do concede that you do not have a plan to balance the budget. And you don't pay for the tax cuts that you are extending?"
Yet, when Stephanopoulos interviewed Barack Obama for 16 minutes on September 9, he included several softball questions, such as this empathetic example on the minister who threatened to burn a Koran on 9/11: "I wonder what this must feel like from behind your desk. You're President of the United States. You have to deal with the fallout. And here's a pastor who's got 30 followers in his church. Does it make you feel helpless or angry?"
A transcript of the September 23 segment, which aired at 7:06am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's turn now to one of the architects of the Republican agenda, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a ranking Republican on the House budget committee. Good morning, Congressman.
REP. PAUL RYAN: Hey, good morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard the President. He said this is the exact same agenda as Republicans had before he came to office. How is it different?
RYAN: Well, first of all, cutting spending, creating jobs and putting the policy of economic growth in place, and cleaning up the way Congress works is not only standing in stark contrast to this Congress and this President. But, actually, George, it stands a bit in stark contrast to way Republicans conducted ourselves a decade ago. We need to own up to the fact that when we were in the majority, we spent too much money. We lost our way. We have got to get that back. We are not here offering a plan to reinvent America. We are trying to reclaim our country by rededicating ourselves to the timeless principles that made us exceptional. These are the basic building blocks to get us on the right track. The first steps to get this country on the right track.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, Congressman, the two central items in the agenda, are extending the tax cuts passed under President Bush. Repealing the health care law by President Obama. Those are going to cost at least $4 trillion over the next ten years. And your- your pledge doesn't spell out anything close to paying for that $4 trillion.
RYAN: We'd put 1.3 trillion in cuts right there as well. But the President is also proposing $3 trillion of those $3.7 trillion in tax cuts be extended. So, it's not as if the President and the Democrats aren't saying extend some of them. We're saying-
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, how are you going to pay for the $4 trillion, if you're going to reduce the spending?
RYAN: Well, I brought a budget to the floor that reduced $4.8 trillion in spending, which would have more than compensated for these tax cuts. The point is, George, raising taxes on successful, small businesses, which these tax increases would hit 50 percent of all small business income, 70 percent of our jobs come from small businesses. It is not a good idea in this economy, to raise these kind of taxes. Even some of the President's own economic advisers are suggesting, we should not have tax increases occur in January. What- The problem we have right now is jobs, George. We need the economy growing. We need job creations. Taxing capital gains, taxing dividends taxing small businesses will hurt us from creating jobs. Mark Zandi, Peter Orszag. Even some of the President's own advisors are suggesting that. So, we're saying, not only keep taxes low, but focus on spending. Cut spending. Control spending. Get the budget on the path to balance. We will begin with that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you say a path to balance. But, you do concede that you do not have a plan to balance the budget. And you don't pay for the tax cuts that you are extending?
RYAN: Well, we can pay for the tax cuts. I have provided budgets that do that in the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, the rest of the Republicans aren't signing on to it?
RYAN: No. That's the road map which is quite different. What I'm saying is we have a plan to get this country back on track. We want to cut and control spending. The deficit is such a mess right now. It's going to take time to balance the budget. But, what is the current government doing? Their making it worse. The President has added a budget that doubles our debt in five years. And triples it in ten years. We want to go in a different direction. So, we don't want to balance the budget by raising taxes. We want to balance a budget by controlling spending. 'Cause, after all, that's the real source of our problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also talk about cleaning up Congress. You're taking some heat, some surprising heat from conservatives. Erick Erickson of RedState.com says- hits you were not taking on earmarks, for not banning earmarks. He says "The lack of an earmarks ban is terrible. Cutting off the gateway drug to big government is important." Your response?
RYAN: I agree. We've already banned earmarks. That's already in the Republican platform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only for your conference. Not for the House overall.
RYAN: Republicans- We've going to continue this earmarks ban. We've already done the earmark ban. So, it's something we've already initiated it in our own volition within our own conference. It's something we're intending on continuing. That's why it's not new pledge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you've got the pledge. What will you pledge to pass in the first year, if Republicans take control of the house?
RYAN: Right. So, this is something we could pass tomorrow. This is a governing agenda that we're saying if we got in control of Congress tomorrow, here's what we would do. And there's dozens of pieces of legislation here we're talking about. First of all, the health care bill, we think is a disaster. It's making the deficit worse. That's according to the President's actuary. It's making health care go up. We would replace this health care law with consumer-directed health care that actually gets affordable health care to everybody, regardless of preexisting condition.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that is number one. Okay, Congressman-
RYAN: We would cut spending, right away. There's lots of things we would do. We would rescind TARP. We would rescind unspent stimulus. We would do a federal hiring freeze. That can get you 1.3 trillion in spending cuts. And we would prevent these massive tax increases from hitting our economy January 1st so that we can keep job creation going. We're trying to remove uncertainty so the economy can grow. There's a big uncertainty problem. Businesses aren't hiring because of all this government uncertainty. We want to address that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Big agenda for January 1st. Thank you very much, Congressman.