The Wisconsin congressman said the GOP will have a chance to showcase their common principles in budget negotiations set to begin Wednesday.
He rejected hopes for a "grand bargain" deal, which he said would include pro-growth tax reform, a balanced budget and entitlement reform.
"I don't think we'll get a grand bargain, and we're not talking about getting a grand bargain," he said. "Because then, one party will require that the other compromise their core principles, and we won't get anything done."
The GOP's key bargaining chip, Ryan said, is the sequestration, the automatic spending cuts Democrats are seeking to repeal.
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"If we can't get anything better than the sequester, then we'll keep the sequester," Ryan said. "That's our base case to begin with."
Ryan insisted increased tax revenue was out of the question, calling Keynesian stimulus programs "sugar-high economics."
"We're not in this business to raise taxes," he said. "We'll take the spending cuts we have and work with those."
Instead, he said he was willing to negotiate on the "smarter" cuts to replace sequestration.
"If we get a down payment on this debt and deficit in exchange for short-term relief, we'll take it," he said. "But it has to be on net a positive, meaning we will take the spending cuts right now."
Ryan said substituting entitlement reform in place of broad spending cuts under sequestration would enable long-term growth in the U.S. economy.
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"If smart entitlement reforms could replace this accrued across-the-board sequester, it would do a couple things," Ryan said. "It show the credit markets, the bond markets, it would show the world that America is getting ahead of its problems. We're not just going to victims of circumstances. We're not just going to fall into a debt crisis like Europe, but we're going to get out of it."
Entitlement should top the budget negotiations' agenda, Ryan said.
"The question is not if we deal with entitlements," Ryan said. "The question is if we are going to do it before the debt crisis or after the debt crisis. We would like to do it before so that we can shape events in this country instead of having events shape us."
The Congressman said, ultimately, his job is to find common ground in budget negotiations among Republicans and Democrats.
"I would argue that in this very difficult time that we are in, wouldn't it be nice to show that this American divided government can at least govern?"
—By Elizabeth Schulze, CNBC desk producer. Follow her on Twitter @eschulze9.