The Washington Times - October 9, 2013, 08:38AM

Former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a key budget-minder in Congress who’s been quiet during the government shutdown, re-entered the fray on Wednesday with an op-ed that takes the fiery rhetoric down a notch and calls on President Obama to come to the negotiating table.

“The president is giving Congress the silent treatment. He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling,” the Wisconsin Republican wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “That’s a shame — because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough.”


Mr. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said Mr. Obama is incorrect in stating it is abnormal for the parties to negotiate over the nation’s borrowing authority, or debt limit. He also relies on history to make the case that Democrats and the GOP are in a position to revamp entitlement spending and forge real tax reform.

His ideas include higher premiums for wealthier persons on Medicare and asking federal employees to contribute more to their retirement packages.

“If Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts,” Mr. Ryan wrote.

However, it is unclear whether Mr. Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner will be able to see eye-to-eye anytime soon. The president said he is willing to hammer out real reforms, but only if House Republicans agree to clean measures that reopen the government and raise the debt limit.

Mr. Boehner said that’s a non-starter, since his party deserves some concessions on Obamacare or other priorities.

Observing the fragile situation, Mr. Ryan purposefully avoided phrases that could stir up ill feelings of the 2011 showdown that led to sequester cuts and a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating.

“This isn’t a grand bargain,” he wrote. “For that, we need a complete rethinking of government’s approach to helping the most vulnerable, and a complete rethinking of government’s approach to health care. But right now, we need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today — and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow.”

But it appears that Mr. Ryan isn’t gaining traction with the hard-right wing of the party, which wants to dismantle the new health care law.

The Senate Conservatives Fund took to Twitter to tell Mr. Ryan that “Obamacare is the #1 job killer and it will bankrupt our country. Your plan does nothing to stop it.”

Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative Heritage Action group, also took a swipe at the op-ed and the White House press corps for failing Tuesday to ask the president tough questions about the health care law’s implementation.

“Much like White House press, Paul Ryan doesn’t mention Obamacare in WSJ oped,” he tweeted.