Rep. Paul Ryan defended his decision to release a controversial pre-election budget proposal, asserting that the move demonstrates the political leadership missing from the Obama administration.
In a CNBC interview, the House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin responded to criticism both from Democrats, who have demonized the plan as dangerous to seniors and the poor, as well as Republicans, who worry about the political liabilities.
"I want to do it in an election year, because I want to the country to have the choice," Ryan said. "Do you want the president's path of a government-centered society, a path to debt and decline? Or do you want to get back to the American idea, the opportunity society with a strong safety net that is wired to getting people back to work, on to lives of self-sufficiency?"
With the bold plan to address the trillions in unfunded liabilities facing national entitlement programs, Ryan has become a lightning rod for criticism.
The proposed budgetrevamps the tax code and changes the system for Medicare to a premium support program in which the government would underwrite coverage that seniors would choose from a free marketplace of providers.
Democrats deride the plan as an unworkable voucher system that would jeopardize senior health care.
Republicans, meanwhile, worry that President Barack Obama's campaign will attack the Republican presidential nominee with ads showing a GOP that wants to cut taxes for the rich while shoving Medicare recipients into the streets.
Prior to Ryan's appearance, outspoken real estate developer Donald Trumpcalled the Ryan plan "potentially catastrophic for the Republicans" and the party's chances to retake the White House.
"Because of the debt crisis, the people who get hurt the first and the worst are the poor and the elderly, the people who need government the most," Ryan said. "The president has chosen to punt, not to lead, on this most pressing issue of our generation, to wait for the Republicans to offer their plan, then attack."
Ryan himself is being touted in some circles as a potential vice presidential nominee for whomever gains the GOP nod — presumably former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — but earlier told NBC he has not had discussions about the idea.
"If you want to be good at these jobs, you've got to be willing to lose these jobs," he said. "Be honest with people — address the drivers of debt, the structural problems, so we can fix our state and our country, and that's what we're doing."