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Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

Articles by Sahil

Rep. Paul Ryan is considered a single-issue candidate -- a vice presidential pick who bolsters Mitt Romney's argument that this election is about the economy and only the economy.

Ryan hasn't dedicated much time to social issues. But the Wisconsinite, best understood as an anti-tax, anti-spending purist, has taken positions outside the mainstream on issues like abortion and women's health.

An examination of Ryan's record reveals a congressman who, with few exceptions, has hewed to his party's far-right base on social issues. He has supported a federal ban on abortion even in the case of rape and incest, and a ban on gay adoption.

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Senate Democrats' chief policy and messaging strategist is telling his members to hammer Mitt Romney's running mate Rep. Paul Ryan all the way to Election Day, not just as a Medicare slayer but also as a fiscal phony.

In a memo his office provided to TPM, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls on Democrats to puncture the central Romney campaign narrative that the Republican ticket is serious about tackling the nation's greatest fiscal challenges. The document reflects Democrats' longstanding frustrations with the credibility Ryan has among Washington centrists as a sincere deficit hawk.

"If we can succeed in showing voters how Ryan is not really a deficit hawk at all -- that he prioritizes conservative ideology over balancing the budget -- the rationale for his selection is gone, and Romney's political high-wire act will fail," Schumer writes.

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The Romney campaign's new ad blitz reinforces its latest attack -- that President Obama cut Medicare spending by $716 billion -- with an ominous warning to seniors. But the Affordable Care Act's cuts and other Medicare reforms don't touch benefits, they target waste in provider payments.

In fact, the totality of Obama's Medicare reforms expand benefits for seniors and lower out-of-pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act actually enhances Medicare benefits by closing the prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" and expanding free preventive services, including an annual wellness visit.

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Early in 2010, a little-known congressman named Paul Ryan introduced a radical blueprint to remake the federal budget. Two and a half years later, having won over nearly all congressional Republicans in updated versions of the proposal, he is the party's vice presidential nominee to be.

Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap For America's Future," was the precursor to his sweeping budget proposals in 2011 and 2012 that nearly all Republicans voted for. Updated versions of some of its components, like the plans to remake Medicare and the tax code, were included, while others, like the proposals to privatize Social Security, were dropped.

Here's a guide to some of its most sweeping reforms.

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During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama attacked John McCain for proposing Medicare cuts similar to the ones he enacted and is now being criticized for by Mitt Romney.

As reported in a Huffington Post article that the Romney campaign circulated to reporters Tuesday, Obama bashed McCain in an ad and on the stump for proposing $800 billion in Medicare savings.

McCain's proposed cuts, like Obama's $700 billion, did not affect Medicare benefits. According to a Wall Street Journal article at the time, McCain's senior adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin "said the Medicare and Medicaid changes would improve the programs and eliminate fraud, but he didn't detail where the cuts would come from."

Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller piled on in an email Tuesday.

"In 2008, Obama attacked McCain for supposedly proposing to cut Medicare to pay for health care," he wrote. "Then, as president, Obama did just that. More evidence his political demagoguery on Medicare can’t be trusted."

McCain's embrace of the cuts in 2008 reflect the bipartisan nature of finding savings within the program, which was also affirmed after congressional Republicans voted to keep the cuts in Paul Ryan's budget blueprint.

One of Rep. Paul Ryan's many past proposals to remake the federal safety net included a sweeping plan to privatize Social Security and risk the program's solvency in attempting to save it. He championed the idea as recently as 2010 but pushed it under the rug the following year. Mitt Romney, who recently selected Ryan to be his vice presidential nominee, is steering clear of the plan.

The proposal was in Ryan's 2010 "Roadmap For America's Future," a broad blueprint to remake the federal budget which elevated the little-known congressman into the Republican Party's visionary. It involved shifting Social Security funds to private retirement accounts as well as reducing benefits and gradually raising the age of eligibility.

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Mitt Romney has been talking up Rep. Paul Ryan's bipartisan credentials since he unveiled the congressman as his running mate early Saturday. But the mild-mannered Wisconsinite's record reveals a near-total absence of Democratic support for his many ambitious proposals, very few of which have won enough support to become law.

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Lost in the back and forth between the Obama and Romney campaigns over who's the real Medicare cutter is a critical difference between visions: President Obama's plan is to make the program solvent by reducing payments to health care providers, while Rep. Paul Ryan achieves his savings by transforming Medicare into a voucher-like system.

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