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At CPAC, Paul Ryan Downplays Tea Party/Establishment Divide

10:08 AM, Mar 6, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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That’s why I’m excited about our team. The way the Left tells it, the Republican Party is in a civil war. It’s Tea Party versus establishment—libertarians versus social conservatives. There’s infighting, conflict, backbiting, discord. Look, I’m Irish—that’s my idea of a family reunion. I don’t see this great divide in our party. What I see is a vibrant debate. We’re figuring out the best way to apply our principles to the challenges of the day. Sure, we have our disagreements. And yes, they can get a little passionate. I like to think of it as “creative tension.”

 

For the most part, these disagreements have not been over principles—or even policies. They’ve been over tactics. So I think we should give each other the benefit of the doubt. But we, your representatives—we have to earn this benefit of the doubt. We have to offer a vision. We have to explain where we want to take the country—and how we want to get there.

 

Now, there’s a fine line between being pragmatic and being unprincipled. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s here to start a career—and who’s here to serve a cause. But the true test is not which specific path you take; it is whether you move the country in the right direction.

 

And we will. From our governors in the states to our members in Congress—to the Tea Party groups across the country—a conservative, reform agenda is now taking shape. We’re offering a vision. And we’ve got plenty of ideas.

 

Take Senator Tim Scott and Leader Eric Cantor. They’ve said, sure, let’s make things a little more equal—let’s let every parent choose where their child goes to school—because we believe to help every child get ahead, every parent should get a choice.

 

Take Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Tom Graves. They want to give states more control over our highways, so they can build the roads they need—because we believe families should spend less time in traffic and more time at home.

 

Take Senator Marco Rubio. He wants to repair our safety net. He wants to streamline those government programs and give working families a boost—because we believe, in this country, it should always pay to work. We believe in the dignity of work.

 

Take Congresswoman Martha Roby. She’s got a great idea: If you work overtime, you should be able to take more paid time off—if you want to—because we believe that working parents know best how to balance their time, and Washington should stop standing in the way.

 

Take Chairman Dave Camp. He wants to lower tax rates for businesses and families. Right now, our tax code is ten times the size of the Bible and has none of the good news. Today the way it works is, you send your money to Washington. And if you do what Washington tells you to do, you get some of your money back. Well, here’s an idea: Why don’t you just keep it in the first place?

 

And take Obamacare. The way the President talks, you’d think there was no alternative. But we’ve got plenty. Senator Tom Coburn has one—so do Congressmen Phil Roe and Tom Price. Each plan has its virtues. But the unifying principle is clear. We believe you should pick your health-care plan—not Washington.

 

Once again, the GOP is where the action is—just as it was in Jack Kemp’s day—at the beginning of the Reagan Revolution. People forget that cutting taxes was once controversial, even in our own party. Senator Bob Dole used to make fun of supply-siders like Jack. He used to say: “The good news is . . . a bus load of supply-siders went over a cliff. The bad news is . . . a couple of seats were empty.” But over time, he warmed to the idea. And when he ran for president, he promised to cut tax rates across the board.

 

This is what we call the “the battle of ideas.” I saw it with my budget. When I introduced it in 2008, I had just eight co-sponsors. The political pros told everyone to stay away. Then the Tea Party members got elected, and now the House has passed it three years in a row. That’s how it always is: You fight it out. You figure out what works. You come together. Then you win. It’s messy and noisy and even a little bit uncomfortable. But the center of gravity is shifting. We’re not just opposing a President. We’re developing an agenda—a modern, pro-growth, principled agenda for our party. We are going to show the country there’s a better way.

 

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