MSNBC Interview - Transcript


Date: March 12, 2009

MSNBC Interview - Transcript


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MS. O'DONNELL: Joining me now is Republican Congressman from Wisconsin Paul Ryan. He's also ranking member of the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressman, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

REP. RYAN: Good afternoon, Norah. Nice to see you, too.

MS. O'DONNELL: Let's talk first about this. Are you opposed to any kind of second stimulus package?

REP. RYAN: No, we're not. Actually, we have proposed a very big alternative to the first stimulus package. Those alternative ideas we offered to the president were not accepted. We still think they would work well: tax relief for small businesses help employers keep and retain employees. And these are the things that we'd like to see happen to actually get people back to work. They were not included in the first package, so if there's a chance at actually getting economic policy in place that works, we're all for that.

MS. O'DONNELL: So you're saying it depends on what would be in the package?

REP. RYAN: Oh, of course.

MS. O'DONNELL: If it includes a lot of tax cuts, then, sure, Republicans would be for it.

REP. RYAN: Yeah, so the first package -- the fact that we're talking about a second package, I think, is an acknowledgment that the first package didn't work. So the last thing we want to do is to repeat those mistakes and just do another borrow-and-spend package because this one's obviously not working.

MS. O'DONNELL: Well, wait, Congressman, with all due respect, how can you call it a failure when it was just passed three weeks ago? My goodness, the money hasn't even had a chance to get out there.

REP. RYAN: I'm not the one saying that this isn't working and we need another -- second stimulus package. That's what's coming from the House Democrats themselves, Chairman David Obey.

What I'm saying is the fact that this first stimulus package only had 1 percent of which was dedicated to encouraging employers to keep and retain employees, that wasn't enough. We need to go with what has proven to work in the past, and that is help small businesses keep and create jobs.

The thing that I think is hurting the economy now is they've rolled this new budget out there, which has the largest debt in history. More debt accumulates under this budget than all prior 43 presidents combined, and has a huge $1.4 trillion tax increase on the economy -- tax increases on small businesses, on energy, on the very assets that make up our very savings plans -- our 401(k)s, our pensions. That's not going to help us grow our economy and create jobs and earn back the savings that everybody's lost. So we should in on doing -- undoing those things and going with pro-growth tax policy that has been proven to work.

MS. O'DONNELL: Congressman, I want to get you to directly respond, though, to what the president has said when responding to criticism like the criticism that you've leveled here today. He said, with -- in an interview with regional newspapers yesterday, quote, "Opposition is always easy. Saying 'no' to something is easy. Saying 'yes' to something and figuring out how to solve problems and governing, that's hard."

What are you saying "yes" to, or are the Republicans the party of "no"?

REP. RYAN: See, this is a very intellectually dishonest and a very intellectually lazy argument. The idea of having the strawman that suggests we're saying don't do anything is not true. The president actually asked us for ideas and we sent him our ideas. Now, those ideas were not included, and that's the Democrats' right because they control government. But we have been making a lot of proposals of how to get our economy growing again, and we would love it if some of these proposals we've been making would actually be passed and included so we could actually get this economy growing again.

So we are criticizing the administration, absolutely, because we think they're going the wrong way. But at the same time, we've been proposing bold alternatives on how we ought to get ourselves out this mess we're in, and keep and create jobs.

MS. O'DONNELL: Congressman, I have two other questions about the future of the Republican Party. The first involves the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele. He has given an interview with GQ Magazine in which he was asked about abortion. And the interviewer asked, "Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?" And Steele responded, "Yeah, I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice." Does that cause a problem for your party when the chairman says, "I think that's an individual choice"?

REP. RYAN: We are a big-tent party. I am personally pro-life. I am a pro-life legislator. Michael Steele may be pro-choice. We are a big-tent party. We don't have a 16-point litmus test that you have to pass to get into the Republican Party. If you believe in the American ideal -- self-determination, freedom, liberty, limited government, free enterprise -- we want you in our party.

MS. O'DONNELL: Really? There's not a problem when the chairman of the Republican Party is pro-choice?

REP. RYAN: No. We have plenty of pro-choice Republicans in our party. There are pro-choice Republicans in Congress. There are pro- choice Republicans that I represent in Wisconsin. We are a big-tent party.

I'm pro-life, Michael Steele is pro-choice, and you know what? We both fit within the tent of the Republican Party.

MS. O'DONNELL: All right. Congressman Paul Ryan, great to have you on.

REP. RYAN: Thank you, Norah.

MS. O'DONNELL: As always, a leader there in the House. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

REP. RYAN: Thank you.