Fact Check: Paul Ryan misleads on debt panel's spending cut plan

Ryan sets agenda for foreign policy
Ryan sets agenda for foreign policy

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Story highlights

  • Ryan says Obama did nothing with panel's recommendations
  • Ryan was one of eight Republicans on the panel
  • Ryan voted against debt commission plan

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has a carefully crafted reputation as a deficit hawk on Capitol Hill and used those credentials to attack the growth of the federal debt on President Barack Obama's watch.

"He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing," Ryan, who served on that panel, told the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.

But what Ryan left out of that jab was that he helped kill the proposed report that commission produced nearly two years ago.

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The facts:

Ryan was one of eight Republicans on the 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which Obama established in 2010. The commission was led by Erskine Bowles, who served as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson.

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Bowles and Simpson proposed a sweeping program of spending cuts and a radical overhaul of the U.S. tax code, aimed at cutting projected budget deficits by a total of $4 trillion by 2020. The plan included changes to Social Security and substantial cuts in defense and discretionary spending.

But for their proposal to be adopted as official recommendations to Congress, the Bowles-Simpson commission needed 14 of the 18 votes. It failed on an 11-7 vote, with four Democrats and three Republicans, including Ryan, voting no.

Ryan was then the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, soon to be its chairman. He called the plan "serious and credible" -- but said it relied too heavily on tax increases and failed to restructure federal health care programs like Medicare.

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Obama never fully embraced the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. But he incorporated some of the recommendations the co-chairs made in a plan he sent to Congress the following April, one that called for a mix of spending reductions and tax hikes. And in August 2011, after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives balked at raising the federal debt ceiling, he signed a deficit-reduction plan that sets in motion $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts over the next decade. A congressional "supercommittee" that was supposed to find an alternative to those cuts failed to reach agreement in November.

The verdict:

Misleading. Obama didn't sign onto the Bowles-Simpson recommendations wholeheartedly, but he did take some of their suggestions to Congress in 2011. And Ryan ignores his own role in the failure of the Bowles-Simpson panel.

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