House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday made the case for pushing on with his drastic budget proposal despite the political minefields ahead.
Ryan has faced scrutiny over whether his plan can garner enough support from members of his own party in Congress and, if it doesn't, whether it could throw a wrench into the Republicans' plans for the 2012 presidential campaign.
But Ryan also appeared cognizant of the hostile reception his plan could receive on Capitol Hill. When lawmakers put forth "serious" fiscal proposals, he said, the other party tends to "use it as a political weapon against you in the next election."
"Yeah, this stuff isn't politically popular. If it was, it would be fixed by now," he said.
Ryan's comments offer a glimpse of the case he will make to lawmakers as he rolls out his 2012 budget plan Tuesday.
His blueprint would cut $6.2 trillion from President Obama's 2012 budget proposal and fundamentally change Medicare and Medicaid, among other changes.
But Ryan faces competing tensions from conservative members of his own party — who want his plan to balance the budget faster and deal with Social Security — and Democrats who have looked to make his entitlement reforms radioactive by labeling them a privatization plan.
His budget could also loom large over the field of 2012 GOP presidential candidates, who could be put on the defensive about how it deals with entitlements.
"It will become the 2012 Republican platform, no matter who is the nominee," New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote Monday.
"You can't let that deter us," Ryan said of the political difficulties his plan faces.
Ryan has taken steps to pre-empt some of that criticism. He published a lengthy op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and released a YouTube video containing animated graphs illustrating the depth of the problem. He also plans to deliver a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday to explain his budget.
Ryan suggested he could attract a base of support from within the ranks of freshman House Republicans, many of whom received Tea Party support. He said the 87-member class "came here for a cause," not to get reelected.
"Can we move the polls instead of the polls moving us?" he asked.