Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump’s feud with the press in the spotlight Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy Graham: Ryan tax plan won’t get 10 votes in the Senate MORE (R-Wis.) spelled out the stakes of the 2016 presidential race on Wednesday, warning that electing another “progressive” would boost the national debt and doom Social Security and other entitlement programs.
“I believe we are one presidency away from losing control of the situation,” Ryan told a room full of conservatives at Heritage Action’s annual policy summit.
The combination of rising interest rates, a rush of retiring baby boomers and another Democrat in the White House for four or eight years would be catastrophic for the solvency of entitlement programs, said Ryan, a former chairman of both the Budget and Ways and Means committees.
“If you wait until after a progressive leaves the White House again, it’s going to be too late,” the Speaker said. “You will have to cut benefits in real time on people who are in retirement. You will have to pull the rug out from under people.”
His warnings about entitlements and the rapidly rising $19 trillion national debt came during a question-and-answer period after his speech to the group. During his 12-minute address, Ryan quoted a line from the movie “Braveheart,” urging conservatives to “unite the clans” to take back the White House this fall.
“The left would love nothing more than for a fragmented conservative movement to stand in a circular firing squad so the progressives can win by default,” Ryan said.
President Obama, whom Ryan met with Tuesday, will try to distract Republicans by talking about guns and other hot-button issues, said the Speaker, who ran against Obama as the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012.
“Don’t take the bait. Don’t fight over tactics,” Ryan warned. “And don’t impugn people’s motives.”
Later, as he fielded questions from the audience, Ryan said he was willing to lose his seat in Congress as long as he’s able to stand up for his convictions.
“This is why winning is so important: The legacy of leaving the next generation better off is up for grabs. That is why we have to win, and not only win but win with a mandate,” Ryan said.
“I am fine if I lose my seat in 2018 after doing the right thing to save America. No problem,” he added. “That is the attitude we have to have, but we’ve got to lay it out there to the country.”
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, who was on hand for the speech, told reporters Ryan has been doing a better job at reaching out to conservatives than his predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Ryan recently invited DeMint, a former GOP senator from South Carolina, to meet with him in the Speaker’s office.
And in one of his first acts as Speaker, Ryan named David Hoppe, a former top executive at Heritage, as his chief of staff.
“Rather than trying to beat conservatives, as Boehner did, Paul is trying to harness that energy in a positive direction,” DeMint said. “So far, I think we’re encouraged by the way things are going.”