Saturday, January 22, 2011

Budget chairman to respond to Obama speech

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been tapped to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell jointly announced the choice of Ryan in a news release today.

"Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to address the state of our economy and the fiscal challenges that face our country," Boehner said. "We're broke, and decisive action is needed to help our economy get back to creating jobs and end the spending binge in Washington."

McConnell said Ryan "has spent the better part of the last two years explaining exactly why the Democrat agenda has been so bad for jobs and the economy."

Last year, Ryan attracted some attention when Obama singled him out during remarks to GOP lawmakers at their issues retreat. The president said Ryan had issued "a serious proposal" to curb the nation's deficit, which included reining in entitlements.

In that deficit proposal, Ryan called for reducing future Medicare and Social Security benefits for people under 55 so the entitlement programs won't take up an even larger share of federal taxes as the Baby Boomer generation retires.

In Tuesday's speech, Ryan said he will be "outlining a vision for a future that fulfills the uniquely American legacy of leaving the next generation with a stronger, more prosperous nation."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said he respects Ryan and believes the budget panel will be a place for "robust debate" about the nation's economy. But so far, Van Hollen said, he's not impressed with the GOP's fiscal leadership, including what he called a "reckless" plan by the Republican Study Committee to cut $2.5 trillion in federal spending.

"While we look forward to hearing what Paul has to say, more importantly we look to see what the GOP will do to tackle the challenges facing our nation," Van Hollen said in a statement. "I hope they do not plan to continue down the path they've started on."

Ryan, 40, was first elected to Congress in 1998.

His district, which includes Ryan's home in Janesville and some Milwaukee suburbs, voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, but backed President George W. Bush in 2004.

By Catalina Camia, USA TODAY

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