So Who Is Paul Ryan (And What He Might Mean for Military Families)?
When the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney selected the Wisconsin Congressional representative to be his running mate, he sent a powerful message: Rather than select a ho-hum safe choice like Tim Pawlenty, Romney went with the leading voice for fiscal conservativism in Congress. Ryan, the head of the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is perhaps the most vocal proponent of entitlement reform and – to some extent – deficit reduction on the Hill.
He’s well known among budget and policy wonks – but the broader public probably got their first taste of him when he confronted President Obama in a “town hall” debate on the merits of the Democrats’ health reform bill last year.
Romney has never held office at the national level; his highest political office was Governor of Massachusetts. So Romney does not have a track record of military issues to look at, except as Commander in Chief of them Massachusetts National Guard.
Ryan is not a veteran. As a matter of fact, this year marks the first year since 1932 in which no one on either major party ticket had served in the U.S. armed services. On the other hand, Ryan has been in Congress for 14 years, and has voted on a number of important military appropriations and provisions, as well as use-of-force resolutions.
So what’s his record?
Well, he voted to authorize military action against Al Qaeda in 2001, as did almost everyone on both sides of the aisle that year.
He also voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq to support the UN Security Council Resolutions in 2003 – at that time tantamount to a vote to go to war against Iraq.
Ryan also voted in favor of banning the use of U.S. ground forces in Libya without first securing Congressional Approval.
Ryan opposed the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy – preferring instead to prohibit gays and lesbians from serving openly in the Armed Forces.
Ryan also recently came out with a budget proposal for 2013 and a spending plan for the following ten years. According to his own analysts and the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s plan relies on reining in spending to balance the budget by 2040, and reduce the overall national debt from 68 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 to 10 percent of GDP by 2050.
His plan, say proponents, would do so while reducing tax rates. The Ryan plan would establish just two federal tax rates: 10 percent and 25 percent, while rolling back certain deductions.
Coming up with a plan, of course, is a lot different from selling it – and Ryan got precious few Congressional representatives to sign on to it – even from his own party.
As for military spending, Ryan’s plan would hold the Pentagon budget to match inflation over the next ten years. Not quite what the Pentagon might ask for – it doesn’t have room for a lot of mission creep – but it’s still a lot more money than what many of the President’s supporters suggest.
While the military budget essentially marks time under Ryan’s proposal, all federal domestic discretionary spending would be slashed by 13 percent.
That said, Ryan has not always been a free-spender when it comes to the military and veterans. He has on at least one occasion voted for a proposal to tighten the standards required to receive medical care from the Veterans Administration. Specifically, his committee floated a proposal to cut spending on providing VA care to veterans who do not have a service-related disability and whose incomes do not make them poor. Specifically, Ryan’s floated plan would cut off Category 8 veterans – and possibly Category 7 veterans as well - from receiving care from the VA.
If this plan were adopted, it would represent a return to the status quo ante – Veterans in Categories 7 and 8 were generally not eligible for care, either, until 1996, when a Republican Congress passed the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Act of 1996, expanding their eligibility and directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand their number of clinics and hospitals to accommodate their new patients.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, 90 percent of Category 7 and 8 veterans have health insurance available from other sources, including employer plans and Medicare.
Ryan opposed “sequestration's" more draconian cuts to the Pentagon, describing the Sequester as a “meat-axe” approach.
He voted against slashing funding for the Osprey.
Ryan also voted against a proposal for a mandatory period of rest and recuperation between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. President Bush also opposed the measure at the time. The bill exempted special operations troops and still allowed the President and Secretary of Defense to waive the requirement in response to unforeseen circumstances.
Ryan voted against a 2012 proposal to increase combat pay from $225 per month to $350.
So what do you think of the Romney/Ryan ticket? How does it compare to Obama/Biden? Do you know who you'll be voting for this November based on what you know so far? Let us know in the comments!