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Sound off: Ryan's 'Path to Prosperity'

From NBC's Jason Seher
Yesterday, msnbc.com's Carrie Dann chronicled the initial Democratic response to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget proposal, including condemnations of the plan by Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Steve Israel (D-NY). 

A slew of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took to the airwaves today to weigh-in on Ryan's newly unveiled budget proposal, titled, "Path to Prosperity." It's no surprise that Democrats have come out universally against the plan while House Republicans have all expressed support for the plan. Even though the messaging on both sides isn't necessarily following a strict script, Democratic and Republican talkers are using Ryan's plan as a convenient way to score political points. 

Continuing Pelosi's message that Ryan's plan offers "the same old Republican choices for the American people," Democratic lawmakers likened Ryan's proposal to the failed push by former President George W. Bush to privatize Social Security.

On CNBC's Squawk Box, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) accused Ryan of ignoring the recommendations made by the Federal Deficit Commission, saying his fiscal outline uses "exactly the same language [Republicans] used in 2001 and 2003." Hoyer continued: “This is exactly the same rhetoric, exactly the same kind of plan that was offered in 2001 and 2003, and it led to the deepest recession this country has seen; extraordinary loss of jobs and a tanking of the stock market. Very frankly, that's not a path we want to go down again."

Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Kent Conrad (D-ND) echoed Hoyer's sentiments. On NPR's Morning Edition, Conrad termed Ryan's Medicaid cuts, "draconian," criticizing the plan for its unwillingness to take a true comprehensive approach to curbing spending. "He only deals with a small part of domestic discretionary spending," Conrad said. "He only deals with a small part of domestic discretionary spending. He does deal with entitlements. He doesn't deal with revenue; he doesn't deal with defense. And as a result, he has a plan that is skewed."

First Read detailed yesterday the White House's response to Ryan's proposal. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the plan fails to "reflect American values of fairness and shared sacrifice." Hill Republicans have clung to Carney's statement, targeting Democrats for not having a serious alternative to Ryan's proposal. By focusing in on the lack of an "adult conversation" on America's fiscal future, House Republicans have managed to overwhelming endorse the "Path to Prosperity" without giving the stamp of approval to specifically slashing healthcare entitlements.    

On the same program with Hoyer, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) praised Ryan's plan as one that would put American on the right "spending trajectory. Hensarling said he believes House Republican "are united in embracing the path to prosperity" and attempted to frame the debate with Hoyer around the lack of a Democratic alternative to Ryan's plan instead of his entitlement reforms.

"As soon as the Democrats put a plan on the table and quit defending the status quo," Hensarling said, "then we can have something to debate. Right now they're defending the status quo."

Both Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) toted similar lines, championing Ryan's vision as a fact-based proposal that moves the country forward and challenging the president to have an adult conversation about the country's fiscal challenges, without commenting on the specifics of the plan. 

"The president is certainly entitled to disagree with our budget," Boehner said, "but what exactly is his alternative?"

But as politicians on the Hill have used Ryan's plan as a launching point for attacking the other party, some Republican presidential hopefuls have responded more cautiously.

Mitch Daniels showed perhaps the most support in responding to Ryan's plan, labeling it "the first serious proposal" to address the national debt. Daniels described the rising debt as a threat to "the livelihood and liberty of every single American" and accusing its detractors of being irresponsible. 

"Anyone criticizing this plan without offering a specific and equally bold program of his own," Daniels said in a statement, "has failed in the public duty to be honest and clear with Americans about the gravest danger we are facing together." 

No other candidate went that far in their endorsement of the "Path to Prosperity." Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used similar tacks, issuing statements applauding Ryan for "offering real leadership" and "setting the right tone" in confronting America's fiscal problem.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) attempted to distance himself from the pack by staying to the right of the other potential GOP candidates, saying in a statement that Ryan's plan didn't go far enough. Santorum embraced Ryan's plan for Medicare, but added that the provisions outlined in the plan should be offered to people older than 55, commenting that "seniors should be part of this solution." 

The statement most closely resembling a rebuke of Ryan's plan came from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In a statement released Tuesday, Huckabee called Ryan's plan "a small step to restoring fiscal sanity," but one that he doubts could ever pass the House in its current form. Huckabee implied that Ryan's proposals didn't go far enough in its cuts, adding "it's unlikely that this one proposal will be the ultimate solution to all of our economic problems."