Eight Dems Who Have Praised Paul Ryan

Including two presidents, three senators and the Democratic architect of the Bowles-Simpson plan
President Bill Clinton / AP

President Bill Clinton / AP


Democrats may be in full attack mode against Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, but a good number of them have praised the GOP budget leader in the past for his intellectual and moral leadership.

Here are eight Democrats who have praised Paul Ryan and his approach:

1. Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.)

Rep. Ron Wyden / AP

The Democratic Senator from Oregon enraged members of his party last year by teaming up with Ryan on Medicare reform. Wyden’s cooperation lent bipartisan credibility to Ryan’s proposal, undermining Democratic efforts to smear the Republican congressman as an unhinged radical hell-bent on throwing seniors out of nursing homes.

“Paul Ryan shares my belief that we don’t hold election certificates to sit on the sidelines and that the only way to tackle some of the big challenges facing our nation is to work together on big solutions,” Wyden said in December upon the release of the proposal. “Paul has also long-shared my view that the best way to hold down health costs is to give all Americans the ability to hire and fire their insurance company.”

2. Erskine Bowles, former Clinton chief of staff

Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff was a co-chair of President Obama’s deficit commission, on which Ryan served. Bowles sang Ryan’s praises in September 2011 during an event at the University of North Carolina.

“Have any of you met Paul Ryan?” he asked the audience. “We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you this guy is amazing. I always thought that I was okay with arithmetic, but this guy can run circles around me. And, he is honest. He is straightforward. He is sincere.”

“And the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan,” he added. “It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget. And it cut the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.”

Bowles recently criticized Democrats for describing Ryan’s proposed Medicare reform as a “voucher plan.”

“That’s really unfair,” he said, noting that Ryan’s market-oriented proposal is “no different than what most big companies have done” in order to restore solvency to employee pension plans.

3. Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.)

Rep. Dan Boren / AP

Rep. Boren, a Blue Dog Democrat from Oklahoma, is the first cousin of Ryan’s wife, Janna. Though Boren, who is retiring at the end of the year, did not vote for Ryan’s budgets, he has praised his Republican colleague as a man of impeccable character.

“Paul has a firm moral compass and has always approached his job as a congressman with diligence and honesty,” Boren said in a statement over the weekend. “Having many friends on both sides of the aisle, he is an effective and talented leader. Although we belong in different political parties, I see Paul as a friend, a fellow hunter, and most importantly a family man.”

4. Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)

Sen. Dick Durbin / AP

The Senate Majority Whip, who served with Ryan on the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, said the House Budget chairman was right to demand an honest conversation about Medicare reform.

“I don’t disagree with Paul Ryan saying we have got to look honestly at Medicare,” Durbin said in July 2011. “If we don’t touch Medicare, in about 10 or 12 years, it goes broke. We can’t let that happen.”

5. Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.)

Sen. Joe Lieberman / AP

“I thank Chairman Ryan for having the courage not just to talk frankly about the danger America’s national debt poses to the American people but also to propose a comprehensive program to cut the national debt,” the former Democratic vice presidential candidate and Connecticut Senator said in April 2011after Ryan unveiled his first budget resolution as House Budget chairman. “One does not have to agree with all or most of Chairman Ryan’s proposals to be able to applaud his serious commitment to reduce the debt that threatens our nation’s future.”

“More of us in Congress from both sides of the aisle need to step forward to embrace comprehensive solutions to address this problem,” he added. “Now is not the time for half-measures or politics as usual, and Chairman Ryan has recognized this reality by offering his plan.”

6. President Bill Clinton

Though Democrats insist Ryan’s Medicare proposals are “right-wing,” they are actually modeled on recommendations issued by a bipartisan commission under President Clinton, and have been championed by former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin.

Clinton met with Ryan in May 2011 at a national debt forum in Washington, D.C., shortly after Democrats had won a special congressional election in New York. The former president told Ryan he hoped Democrats would engage on Medicare reform and told the GOP congressman to “give me a call” if he ever wanted to discuss the issue.

“I’m glad we won this race in New York,” Clinton told Ryan. “But I hope Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing on Medicare.”

John Gorman, who served as a healthcare consultant in the Clinton administration, said the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan, which was included in the most recent version of the House Republican budget, was “a reasonable compromise,” adding, “there’s a lot of precedent for it.”

7. President Barack Obama

President Obama / AP

The president has, of late, had only negative things to say about Ryan’s budget proposals. He has repeated the myth that Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it,” and described the Republican budget as one that would “lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history.”

But Obama struck a remarkably different tone in 2010 during a speech to Republican lawmakers in Baltimore.

“Paul, for example, the head of the Budget Committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal,” the president said. “I’ve read it. I can tell you what’s in it. And there’s some ideas in there that I would agree with but there’s some ideas we should have a healthy debate about because I don’t agree with them.”

Obama went on to describe Ryan’s “Roadmap” proposal, which served as the basis for the budget resolutions passed by the House, as “an entirely legitimate proposal.”

Later that year, the president told Peter Baker of the New York Times that Ryan was one two Republicans he trusted enough to work with on budget issues.

In April 2011, Obama praised Ryan as a “sincere” “patriot” who “wants to solve a real problem.”

8. Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden / AP

“He’s a fine guy,” the vice president said of Ryan in June. “He’s a bright, handsome guy from the state of Wisconsin and he’s a fine guy.”

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