Following his selection as Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan's controversial entitlement reform plan has taken center stage. Democrats have attacked that proposal, saying Ryan – and now by extension, Romney – would dismantle Medicare.
On Starting Point this morning, senior Romney campaign advisor John Sununu responds to this claim, asserting that Romney "supports the concepts" that are in the Ryan plan but has his own plan for reforming Medicare.
Sununu also debates the veracity of Romney's claim that the president cut $700 billion from Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act, insisting that this is the big difference between Romney and Ryan's plans.
O'BRIEN: Let's start with Chris Christie being chosen as the key note speaker. What do you think?
SUNUNU: Let me start first of all with the clip you showed of the president. You're aiding and abetting his dishonesty. Paul Ryan and the Republicans did pass a bill to take care of the drought problem, but it's the democratic Senate that hasn't passed it. So when you show that clip and you show the president lying through his teeth, then you are aiding and abetting a distortion.
O'BRIEN: The original bill was not passed. Since you've taken us off track from my question.
SUNUNU: It was passed. The drought Bill was passed.
O'BRIEN: They will tell you they did not want to pass a Bill that was a short-term answer because what they had on the table earlier was a longer term provision, as you know, sir. Good morning, but let's talk about Chris Christie for a minute. How do you feel about that?
SUNUNU: Well, I think he's going to do great job of pointing out the disaster the economy is in, the 8.3 percent unemployment, the extremely low growth rate, the fact that American families have lost about $4300 each in the asset value over the last four years. That gasoline has doubled, and that the Ryan adds to the Romney ticket and we have two guys that understand what has to be done to save America. And they have the back bone and the will to do it and contrast that with the complete lack of courage in the Obama/Biden team. But other than that, it probably won't be very tough.
O'BRIEN: He has said that he's going to focus more on a why to elect Mitt Romney rather than talking about president Obama. I think he's on his fourth draft of that speech. Let's talk about what everybody is talking about now, which is the Ryan budget and the Ryan Medicare plan. You told Wolf yesterday, I believe, listen, Ryan is number two on the ticket. It's really all about the Romney plan.
SUNUNU: It is. The nominee is Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan joins Mitt Romney. The budget plan, the approach on Medicare and all of that is going to be the Romney plan. What he has is a man as his number two who understands the details of budgets who has demonstrated a willingness to take on tough issues and who knows how to communicate with the public -
O'BRIEN: Isn't the Ryan plan the Romney plan -
SUNUNU: No, it isn't.
O'BRIEN: Let me read you a quote.
SUNUNU: It isn't. You keep wanting to say it and I'm telling you, it's not.
O'BRIEN: Then let me read you a quote from Mitt Romney. This is from Ryan Lizza's article. On March 20th in Chicago, "I'm very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. He said, I think it would be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan's budget and adopt it and pass it along to the president." That sounds like a lot of support. Am I wrong?
SUNUNU: It's support for the concepts that are in the Ryan plan. But Mitt Romney for six months has had on the table his package, his plan and his approach for dealing with Medicare. If all you want to do is keep repeating the garbage that comes out of the White House, then you've got a problem. The American public is going to see that the plan that is being put forward is the plan Mitt Romney has put forward.
O'BRIEN: Let's read then what comes out of MittRomney.com, which I have right here. Key elements of mitt's plan, nothing changes for current seniors, Medicaid is reformed as a premium support system, repackaged as a fixed amount benefit they can use to purchase an insurance plan. All insurance plans must offer what Medicare provides today. This is from MittRomeny.com It sounds awfully like the Paul Ryan Medicare plan. SUNUNU: But it's very different. For example, when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there. The Romney plan does not. That's a big difference.
O'BRIEN: But you know, and I understand that this is a Republican talking point because I've heard it repeated over and over again. And these numbers have been debunked as you know by congressional -
SUNUNU: No, they haven't.
O'BRIEN: Yes they have.
SUNUNU: I have the Congressional Budget Office right here dated July 24th from Doug Elmandorf. Read page 13 and 14 -
O'BRIEN: I can tell you what it says. It cuts a reduction in the expected rate of growth, which you know, not cutting budgets to the elderly, benefits will be improved, the focus is on hospitals and focus is on health insurance.
SUNUNU: He gutted the program by $711 million.
O'BRIEN: The expected rate of growth is being cut.
SUNUNU: It reduces services to Medicare beneficiaries currently on the package. What the difference is, is that Romney says no impact to anybody 55 or over. The - it is clear in here that the reduction in services starts on January 1st, 2013. And Obama stole that money to put it in the -
O'BRIEN: The hospitals agreed to that and drug providers agreed to that because their theory is they will make up by the number of people that come into the system. It doesn't reduce or cut the benefits. The older people who -
SUNUNU: It does -
SUNUNU: Soledad, stop this. All you're doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there. If you're going to mouth what comes out of the White House.
O'BRIEN: I'm telling you what FactCheck.com tells you. I'm telling what the CBO and CNN's independent analysis does.
SUNUNU: I have the CBO report right here.
O'BRIEN: And I'm telling you what it says. I've read it several times.
SUNUNU: Put a Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this. O'BRIEN: You know, let me tell you something, there is independent analysis that details what this is about.
SUNUNU: No, there isn't.
O'BRIEN: Yes, there is.
O'BRIEN: Sir, let me finish. There's independent analysis, fact check.com, the CBO and CNN has already done its own independent analysis, and name calling to me and somehow acting as if by repeating a number of $716 billion that you can make that stick when that figure is being stolen from Medicare, that's not true. You can't just repeat it and make it true, sir.
SUNUNU: Reduction in services and reduction -
O'BRIEN: A reduction in the expected rate of growth, a reduction in the expected rate of growth.
SUNUNU: And reduction in services and reduction in support for Medicare advantage. That is taking money from the program.
O'BRIEN: Which by the way, Paul Ryan, right, has in his budget, which by the way -
SUNUNU: Mitt Romney does not.
O'BRIEN: Which Romney has said in the quote I just read to you, he thinks it's brilliant.
SUNUNU: But he likes the Ryan plan for its guts, but he has his own plan out there, which is carefully crafted to protect the seniors from 55 and up and does not take the $700 billion that Obama took.
O'BRIEN: John Sununu, always nice having you, pleasure.