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Ryan Gears Up for Budget Debate in Rebuttal

Rep. Paul Ryan stepped onto the national stage Tuesday night by challenging Democrats’ economic record and warning that the country “is approaching a tipping point.”

“We are at a moment where if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century,” the Wisconsin Republican said following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

The Budget chairman highlighted the GOP’s attempts to cut spending and repeal the health care overhaul law, and he acknowledged the work facing both parties to bolster the country’s economy. In the wake of the Jan. 8 shooting that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Ryan issued a call for civil debate but nevertheless delivered a message of core GOP policies.

“Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified, especially when it comes to spending,” he said in a live taping from the Budget Committee room. “We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you — to show you how we intend to do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs.”

Ryan criticized the Obama administration for deficit spending and employing economic policies that have not lowered the unemployment rate. While he hailed Obama’s pledge last week to rein in unnecessary government regulations, he pointed to the health care law as one of those burdensome laws.

In a nod to conservatives who delivered the House majority to Republicans this year, Ryan said his party’s fiscal plans would be “anchored in the wisdom of the founders, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and in the words of the American Constitution.”

In contrast, Ryan said, “The president and the Democratic leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.”

Gearing up for a debate over Obama’s budget, Ryan promised that the GOP alternative will “show you how we intend to do things differently.” He said House Republicans would demand further spending cuts in the lead-up to the debate on raising the debt limit.

Ryan has authored a fiscal plan known as the “Roadmap for America’s Future” that proposes an entitlement overhaul, among other measures. He warned Tuesday that new government spending will lead toward further economic breakdown. 

“Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another: We still have time, but not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be,” he said.

The 40-year-old Ryan has largely avoided high-profile GOP leadership posts. By delivering the party’s official response to the president’s address, he instantly increased his profile and drew criticism from Democrats, who sought to paint him as too extreme.

The Democratic National Committee fired off several news releases in anticipation of Ryan’s rebuttal, and the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center took on his “Roadmap” plan.

“Paul Ryan owes it to the national audience tonight to explain why he wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the DPCC, said in a statement. “He can’t sweep his roadmap under the rug just because the spotlight will be shining brighter than usual.”

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