Posted: Aug 15, 2012 7:43 AM by CBS News
Updated: Aug 15, 2012 7:45 AM
In his solo first interview since tapping Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney on Wednesday attempted to create daylight between his plan for Medicare and his running mate's controversial budget proposal, telling CBS News that Ryan had joined his campaign - not vice versa.
"Congressman Ryan has joined my campaign, and his campaign is my campaign now," the presumptive Republican presidential candidate told "CBS This Morning." "We're on exactly the same page."
Ryan's budget has become a lightning-rod for debate in the days since he joined the GOP ticket, particularly in light of his controversial budget plan, which includes an overhaul of the Medicare system. The Romney campaign has gone on the offensive on Medicare, attempting to own the conversation by hitting President Obama for allegedly trying to "rob" Medicare of $716 billion to pay for his health care plan.
Ryan's budget, however, would have included many of the same Medicare reductions as are outlined in the president's health care plan, and Democrats have blasted the duo for what they cast as hypocritical criticism.
"Ryan's budget incorporates the $700 billion in savings achieved under Obamacare, which come from eliminating subsidies to insurance companies, cutting waste and fraud, and reforming delivery systems that will help keep seniors healthy," said Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith, in a press release following a "60 Minutes" interview with Romney and Ryan.
Asked about the Ryan budget's proposed Medicare cuts, Romney on Wednesday suggested that the Wisconsin Republican would fall into line to support a plan that excluded such reductions.
"The president's cuts of $716 billion to Medicare, those cuts are going to be restored if I become president and Paul Ryan becomes vice president," he said. "My commitment is, if I become president, I'm going to restore that $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund so that current seniors can know that trust fund is not being raided and we're going to make sure - and get Medicare on track to be solvent long-term on a permanent basis."
Given Romney's relative lack of existing policy proposals - especially relative to his vice presidential running mate - many have questioned which parts of Ryan's budget Romney would adopt if president.
"Are you running on [Ryan's] budget or on your budget?" CBS News' Anthony Mason asked the candidate on Wednesday.
"My budget, of course," said Romney. "I'm the one running for president."
Asked for specific examples of how Romney's budget differed from Ryan's proposal, Romney reiterated that the two are on the "same page" but noted that under his plan, "I'd get us to a balanced budget faster than the plan [Ryan] originally put forward" and that Ryan's proposed highest tax rate, at 25 percent, is lower than that of Romney, which is 28 percent.
"There are some differences, but they're very similar," he said.