Ryan Backs More Robust Air Strikes to Turn Back ISIS

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan said he would support more aggressive bombings in the Middle East to fight Islamic State militants after the beheading of a U.S. journalist.

“I do believe that probably more of a robust air campaign is called for,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview on Bloomberg Television today with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann that also touched on taxes, immigration and politics.

Ryan, 44, said he hasn’t decided whether to run for president in 2016, and that he’d support his former running mate, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, if the former Massachusetts governor got into the race.

“I’d drive his bus if he wanted me to,” he said.

Ryan is promoting his book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.” He’ll share a stage with Romney for the first time since the presidential election tomorrow in Chicago, where they’ll talk about the book.

The party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012 said the U.S. should provide more logistical help to Iraq’s government and army to “help them have their act together.” In Syria, “there’s more we probably should be doing with the opposition.”

“Early in the Syrian conflict, it was much easier to separate the good guys from the bad guys,” Ryan said. “That’s become a little less clear. But I do believe more can be done in Syria, and I think the administration made some fundamental mistakes there.”

Journalist’s Death

Islamic militants released a video yesterday showing the beheading of kidnapped journalist James Foley and threatened to kill a second American unless President Barack Obama calls off airstrikes on Iraq. U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said today the video is authentic.

The militants threatened to kill another captive American journalist if the administration didn’t stop bombing their counterparts in Iraq. Obama today said the U.S. will remain “vigilant” in protecting Americans and “continue to do what we must do.”

On domestic issues, Ryan said he opposed capping charitable tax deductions. He also endorsed a plan from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp to reduce the size of home mortgages on which interest could be deducted to $500,000 from $1 million.

“It ought to be a middle class tax break, not something for higher-income earners,” Ryan said of limiting the mortgage deduction, which he noted would continue to be used to protect a second-home mortgage.

Tax Proposal

Camp’s mortgage proposal was part of a broader effort to revamp the U.S. tax code that has stalled. Ryan said in his book that the chairman’s plan was a “good start for the conversation” about taxes, though it “isn’t perfect.”

Ryan, a leading candidate to replace the retiring Camp on the Ways and Means panel next year, also said he supports “means testing” Social Security benefits and increasing the retirement age over time to “reflect longevity.” Ryan said he’d tie benefits for the upper one-third of earners to consumer prices, which increase at a slower rate than the wage growth used in the current formula.

Social Security is the federal government’s largest single program, with outlays of $808 billion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The program started spending more than it collected in taxes in 2010, a trend that would exhaust its two main funds by 2033, according to a December 2013 CBO report.

“Doing those two things -- means test the benefit, reflecting longevity in the retirement age -- would take you very far in the way toward bringing solvency to the Social Security system,” Ryan said.

Immigration Plan

On immigration, Ryan wrote in his book that he supports providing legal status to the 11.7 million undocumented workers in the U.S. once an “independent third party” has verified border security and enforcement conditions.

Despite pledges from House Republican leaders that they’d consider immigration policy changes that would appeal to Hispanic voters, Ryan and most of his party voted on Aug. 1 to undermine an Obama administration policy that protects some migrant children from deportation.

“We’re having a problem with immigration reform,” Ryan said about his party.

Obama’s re-election was supported by more than 70 percent of the Hispanic and Asian-American voters, the two fastest-growing race or ethnic groups in the U.S., Census data show.

“Our party needs to reform itself to be a more inclusive party and to be more competitive with non-traditional voters, which I think is absolutely essential going forward,” Ryan said.

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