Pawlenty Says He'd Sign the Paul Ryan Budget

MILFORD, N.H. -- For days, Democrats have been hounding former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to take a position on the House Republican budget outline, hoping either to trap the presidential candidate backing privatization of Medicare or get him in trouble with the GOP’s conservative base.

But Pawlenty, on his inaugural tour as an announced candidate, had managed to sidestep the question – until Thursday, when he told a cluster of reporters here that he would sign the budget if he were president and it reached his desk.

Pawlenty emphasized that he will introduce his own budget plan during the campaign and that it will differ in several respects from the one written by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which features the conversion of Medicare into a voucher system.

“We’ll have our own plan, but…if I can’t have that, and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan's plan, of course I would sign it,” Pawlenty said, after touring Cirtronics, a high-tech manufacturer.

The controversial Ryan plan on Medicare tripped up Newt Gingrich, who called it “right wing social engineering” and said it could not be forced on the American people. Conservatives trashed him, and he recanted, now praising it as a good “start to the conversation.”

Pawlenty did not provide details of how his budget plan might differ from Ryan’s, though he said he would take on Social Security, including means-testing benefits so poorer seniors get more than the wealthy. On Medicare, Pawlenty said his plan “will have some differences” from Ryan’s, but he did not get specific.

“I applaud Congressman Ryan for his courage and his leadership in putting his plan forward,” Pawlenty told the reporters. “At least he has a plan. President Obama doesn't have a plan. The Democrats don't have a plan. And I really applaud his leadership and his courage in putting a plan on the table.”