With the Senate poised to start voting on its first gun measures of the year, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) says he is carefully watching the legislation, particularly the compromise reached on background checks with Senators Pat Toomey (R- Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D -W.Va.).
Ryan and Toomey were elected to Congress at the same time and were roommates on Capitol Hill, but Ryan tells Power Players he would not automatically follow his lead on guns.
“I don’t give my voting card based on someone’s name. I vote for something if I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he’s concerned that Congress will rush to legislate on guns and miss an opportunity to address related issues like mental illness.
“We need to look at the root cause of these problems, and I hope that we can do that. I am worried that we won't,” Ryan said.
On the president’s budget, Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, was skeptical that the president has presented a true compromise that could lure Republicans back to the negotiating table.
“I don’t know if I would say that he cracked the door on entitlement reform,” Ryan said. “He has proposed to change a statistic, which saves money. That is really not entitlement reform.”
Ryan said he was encouraged that the Senate has passed a budget for the first time in four years, but disappointed by the president’s budget proposal, which he called “status quo.”
“If we don’t' get this deficit and debt under control we will never grow the economy again...we will never get the debt under control for the next generation,” Ryan said.
He says he is “cautiously optimistic” that Congress will pass some type of bipartisan immigration reform this year that includes strengthening border security, expanding visas for skilled and unskilled workers and dealing with undocumented immigrants already in the United States “in a realistic way.”
“I have long thought that we have to fix the broken immigration system we have,” Ryan said. “It’s high time we do so.”
As Republicans try to rebuild their party after failing to win the White House and control of the Senate last year, Ryan said the blame should not be assigned to his former ticket mate, Mitt Romney. But he said Republicans should narrow a “technology gap” with Democrats.
“What we now have to do is not point fingers,” Ryan said, “but look at what went wrong.”
To hear more of the interview with Ryan, including whether the former vice presidential candidate plans to try his hand at presidential politics again in the future, check out this episode of Power Players.
ABC's John Parkinson, Robin Gradison, Avery Miller, Tom Thornton, Hank Disselkamp, Richard Norling, and Mary Quinn contributed to this episode.