By Zach Carter
While appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney praised Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system in a shot at fellow presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
During the Sunday show, Romney criticized Gingrich, the former House Speaker, for making a statement in May that "cut the legs out" from under the plan, part of a 2012 budget Ryan proposed back in April.
"Are we going to deal with entitlement reform or not?" Romney asked. "Republicans came together, Paul Ryan was the author of the plan. But almost every single Republican voted for it, and the Speaker said this is 'right-wing social engineering.'"
Romney's actual Medicare plan is not as extreme as Ryan's, however. Instead, it preserves the existing Medicare program, allowing seniors to choose to receive vouchers for private insurance instead of the government plan, while Ryan would end Medicare in favor of a voucher system.
Fox host Chris Wallace pressed Romney on his support for the Ryan budget, suggesting that Ryan's plans to eliminate $700 billion in aid to states, including $127 billion in food stamps, would make Romney vulnerable to Democratic attacks in the general election. Romney said that he would help the poor by growing the economy, and suggested that cutting government benefits for the poor wouldn't cause problems.
"Cutting welfare spending dramatically, I don't think will hurt the poor," Romney said.
But Romney also emphasized contrasts between his economic plans and those of other Republican candidates by saying that he does not support major tax cuts for the rich.
Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) have both proposed flat taxes that would lower taxes on the rich by raising them on the poor.
Romney's Sunday jab at Gingrich comes just days after Ryan launched a new Medicare reform plan with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that takes some of the elements of his earlier proposal. Romney backed the new proposal Thursday night during a Republican presidential debate; Gingrich lauded Ryan and Wyden on Twitter for reaching across party lines. Earlier on Thursday, the Obama administration came out against the new plan, saying it would leave Medicare to "wither on the vine."