The Chairmen

Published — November 4, 2010 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Paul Ryan — Budget Committee

Medicare reform at top of Wisconsin lawmaker’s list


Paul Ryan went to Congress at the age of 28, representing Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district, which includes farm communities as well as southern Milwaukee suburbs. Now 40, Ryan is the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, which generally oversees federal budgeting and is responsible for an annual budget resolution setting l spending and revenue levels for the coming fiscal year. Now that the GOP has won the House, Ryan seems poised to take over the panel. He also serves as a senior member on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

An advocate of fiscal responsibility, Ryan has received national attention for his “Roadmap to America’s Future,” a proposal that would control federal spending and reduce the deficit by reforming entitlement programs, effectively ending Medicare in its current form. Although some have been skeptical of the plan — economist Paul Krugman went so far as to call it a “sham” — President Barack Obama recognized it as a “serious proposal”.

In an August op-ed in The Washington Post, Ryan said Medicare would consume 12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2080, up from 3.6 percent today. “Put simply, Medicare is on course to collapse. Medicare and interest on the national debt alone will soon overwhelm the federal budget, crowding out all other national priorities,” he wrote.

A spokesman for Ryan said the lawmaker “continues to invite others to offer ideas” to address federal spending. Ryan is “calling upon his colleagues to end the demagoguery, break the political paralysis on this issue, and work together to advance solutions,” spokesman Conor Sweeney said in an e-mail.

The Wisconsin lawmaker was among a minority of Republicans who held their noses and voted for the Bush administration’s $700 billion banking bailout program in 2008. At the time, Ryan said the bill offended his principles but that he would vote for it “to preserve this free-enterprise system.” Ryan worked on an alternative bailout plan and some of his ideas were included in the final package.

Ryan voted with his party against health care reform, saying the Democratic-written plan “will dramatically alter our deteriorating economic and fiscal conditions for the worse and may irrevocably impair the American dream.”

Top PAC contributors

  • AT&T, the telecommunications giant — at least $40,000
  • Koch Industries, the energy giant run by prominent conservative and libertarian activists Charles and David Koch — at least $40,000
  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, the financial company founded in 1857 — at least $36,000
  • Investment Company Institute, which represents mutual funds and investment funds — at least $35,500
  • New York Life Insurance, an insurer that also sells mutual funds — at least $33,500
  • PACs gave at least $2.3 million to Ryan’s campaign account and his Prosperity leadership PAC

Revolving door

  • Paul Eiting, a staffer and legislative correspondent (2002-2006), is now deputy director of federal affairs for insurer group America’s Health Insurance Plans Inc.
  • Brendon Weiss, another former legislative correspondent, is now vice president at lobbying firm Porterfield, Lowenthal & Fettig
  • Both former staffers held only entry-level positions, according to Ryan’s spokesman. “Congressman Ryan has argued the most effective way to reduce the prospect for impropriety in citizens’ lobbying efforts is to reduce the size, power and reach of the federal government,” the spokesman added


  • Over a recent three-year period, Ryan obtained more than $5.3 million in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.
  • He requested no earmarks in 2009 or 2010
  • In 2008, Ryan’s earmarks included $3.2 million for the Wisconsin statewide bus system, about $1.3 million for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin, and $750,000 for the Janesville City Transit System
  • Ryan, along with nine other senior House Republicans, in March 2010 urged a moratorium on earmarks as the “only way to wipe the slate clean and allow us to start getting spending under control”

Campaign promises

  • In a recent op-ed in The Oregonian, Ryan said his Roadmap for America’s Future “fulfills the mission of health and retirement security, saving Medicare and Social Security; lifts the crushing burden of debt, paying off the debt completely and restarts the engine of economic growth and limitless prosperity”

Read more in Money and Democracy

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