Not even conservative purists are safe from the Romney Spell.
Within a week of being selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan is already being accused of the same political sin critics often charge Romney with: flip-flopping.Ryan’s latest reversal came on the stump Thursday, when the House budget chief criticized President Obama for failing to crack down on China, echoing a common Romney attack.
“President Obama promised he would stop these practices. He said he’d go to the mat with China. Instead they’re treating him like a doormat,” Ryan said at an Ohio rally. “We’re not going to let that happen. Mitt Romney and I are going to crack down on China cheating.”
Ryan has consistently opposed measures to crack down on China’s currency manipulation practices, which tilt the playing field against American labor. Last fall, he voted against a bill to impose tariffs on countries that significantly undervalue their currency. Late in 2010, he voted against allowing the government to slap duties on imported goods from nations undervaluing their currencies. As far back as 2000, he voted for a bill to block the U.S. government from placing trade sanctions on China, an effort to normalize relations. The Chamber of Commerce has regularly fought sanctions on China.
A campaign spokesperson for Ryan did not immediately return a request for comment.
Separately on Thursday, following days of seeking to go on offense on a vulnerable issue, Ryan came full circle in flip-flopping on Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act, which he embraced in his own 2011 and 2012 budget blueprints. Following Romney, he now pledges to restore the estimated $716 billion in 10-year cuts to provider reimbursements.
“It gets a little wonky but it was already in the baseline,” Ryan told reporters, when asked about the contradiction. “We would never have done it in the first place. We voted to repeal the whole bill. I just don’t think the president’s going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.”
The changes in position threaten to derail Ryan’s reputation among conservatives and Washington centrists as a sincere budget hawk who rises above political pressure. Some conservatives privately worry that hitching himself to Romney could undercut the essence of his appeal to conservatives over time.
Also this week, Ryan, an ardent opponent of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, denied that he ever sought stimulus funds for his district. That belies multiple letters that have been unearthed in which Ryan successfully requested over $20 million in funding from the Department of Energy for companies in Wisconsin. He denied requesting them back in 2010 and denied doing so again on Thursday.
“I never asked for stimulus,” he told WCPO, a local ABC affiliate in Ohio.
But Ryan backed down later Thursday, conceding that the letters “should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that,” according to the New York Times.
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, is happily noting these contradictions, claiming Romney is essentially criticizing his own running mate. On Thursday, referring to the China flap, Obama spokesman Danny Kanner taunted, “Today, Paul Ryan once again demonstrated that he’s been co-opted by Mitt Romney after flip-flopping on his own record.”