Politics & Government

Former VP nominee Paul Ryan in Wichita for Brownback fundraiser

In Wichita for a fundraiser for Gov. Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan dared Democratic senators in swing states to vote down a House bill that would defund implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

In a short interview before the $2,000-and-up fundraiser, Ryan reiterated his opposition to shutting down the government to force a showdown over the national health care act, also known as Obamacare.

Ryan said the House’s current approach, a bill that funds all of government except Obamacare, will be a challenge to Democratic senators from states where the health care act isn’t popular.

The Senate voted Wednesday to shut down debate on the bill following a 21-hour filibuster by Obamacare opponent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, clearing the way for Senate Democrats to strip out the anti-Obamacare provision and send the rest back to the House.

“We want the Senate to play this out,” said Ryan, R-Wis. and House Budget Committee chairman. “We want to see how Mary Landrieu in Louisiana’s going to vote, or Mark Pryor in Arkansas, or Kay Hagen in North Carolina. We want to see what the folks in West Virginia and Montana and these open Senate seats are going to do because we really believe that most people don’t want to see Obamacare start because it’s going to damage their state in life.

“We want to make sure that they (senators) take these votes, and if they don’t repeal Obamacare, defund or delay it, then we’ll adjust our strategy accordingly and keep pressing for it in the House.”

October will be a critical month for the health care act and the ongoing Republican effort to stop it.

Two things happen Tuesday, Oct. 1: That’s the day that Americans will be able to shop for health care and qualify for subsidies to pay for it through health care exchanges run by states, or in Kansas’ case, the federal government.

It’s also the start date for the fiscal year, and if Congress doesn’t pass a spending resolution, government functions begin shutting down for lack of funds.

Ryan, however, indicated he thinks the real showdown over the health care law will come when the federal government reaches its debt ceiling, projected to happen sometime in mid-October.

Failing to raise the limit on government debt could put the country in default on its outstanding loans, which would send shock waves through world financial markets.

Ryan said that will put pressure on the president to negotiate over implementation of the act. Ryan said the law is “not ready for prime time” and his immediate goal is to delay its implementation for individuals for a year, to match the delay the president approved on the law’s mandate that businesses provide insurance options for employees or face tax penalties.

Ryan is also a leading deficit hawk in Congress and said the debt limit has been historically effective in bringing presidents to the table for spending-reduction talks.

“When the president says he’s not interested in negotiating, he already negotiated twice on the debt limit,” Ryan said. “That’s what Bowles-Simpson (a deficit-reduction commission) came from; I was a member of that commission. He already negotiated for the Budget Control Act” that led to the federal budget sequester.

“Most of the recent budget agreements in the past – Gramm-Rudman, the Bush 1990 deal, the Clinton-Gingrich deal – have resulted from debt-limit negotiations and this time’s going to be no different in my judgment,” he said.

Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 election, is considered a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. He spoke briefly to local media before the fundraiser, which was closed to reporters.

Before he was elected to Congress, Ryan was an aide to Brownback when Brownback was a senator. Ryan praised his former boss for fiscal discipline and a pro-growth agenda as governor.

“This is the kind of example that we could use in Washington,” Ryan said.

Brownback said if he were still in the Senate, he’d be taking the same stances as Ryan on the health care act and the deficit.

“I think Paul has the right analysis on it,” Brownback said. “Most people don’t want to shut the government down. The route doesn’t get you where you want to go. It would be better off trying to focus on things that can produce some longer-term change.”

Tickets to the fundraiser started at $2,000, which got the donor and a guest into a lunchtime reception with Brownback and Ryan.

Prices rose in steps to the $15,000 “Flint Hills” contribution level, which entitled the donor to have their picture taken with Ryan and Brownback, to attend a VIP reception and participate in an “executive roundtable” with the politicians.

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