Ryan calls for small bargain to end crisis

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday called for the White House and Republicans to seek a small bargain to resolve the fiscal crisis gripping Washington.

Ryan offered a series of ideas that he said both parties have agreed to in the past, including additional means testing in Medicare and combining the program's hospital and medical insurance portions.

Those reforms could come in exchange for relief from the sequester's across-the-board spending cuts, which Democrats despise, he said. 

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"This isn't a grand bargain," the former GOP vice presidential nominee wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

"Right now, we need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills. … So let's negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code."

Ryan did not propose changes to Social Security or ObamaCare, a surprise given the GOP's initial push to undermine the healthcare law in negotiations to fund the government.

The omission drew flak from conservative groups that have pushed to defund the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible, though rand-and-file Republican lawmakers were all but silent.

"Much like White House press, Paul Ryan doesn't mention ObamaCare in WSJ oped," tweeted Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action.

The opinion piece represents Ryan's most high-profile foray into the fiscal impasse so far.

His ideas carry weight within the fractious House GOP conference, but it remains to be seen if conservatives would agree to a deal that fails to undercut the healthcare law.

The possibility of a broader bargain grows as the need to raise the national debt ceiling draws closer.

Ryan blasted President Obama for saying he would not negotiate over the debt limit but urged Congress to act quickly to prevent a larger crisis.

"The Federal Reserve won't keep interest rates low forever. The demographic crunch will only get worse. So once interest rates rise, borrowing costs will spike. If we miss this moment, the debt will spiral out of control," Ryan wrote. 

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) accused Ryan of being disingenuous, noting that the GOP hopes to negotiate with Obama but has refused to a budget conference with the Senate.

"House Republicans must put away the twin clubs of government shutdown and debt default, and come to the negotiating table on the budget. We continue to stand ready to do that, as we have tried to do all year," Van Hollen said in a statement.

This story was updated at 12:57 p.m.