Washington (CNN) - Even before he unveils his plan for major reforms to entitlement programs, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan admitted Thursday he doesn't expect any bipartisan agreement on changing Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security this year, saying the issue will likely be decided in the next election.
"If the political conventional wisdom is that they're just waiting to demagogue us and use this against us in political campaigns - which I don't know, it probably will happen - then that means we go to the country and say which future do you want," Ryan said at a breakfast on Thursday sponsored by Politico.
Ryan's public admission echoes what other Republican Congressional aides have indicated privately – they still plan to move ahead with a proposal, but don't expect much Democratic support, which is necessary since Republicans only control one chamber of Congress.
The Wisconsin Republican declined to give any details on what reforms he will propose, saying "none of these decisions have been made." But he acknowledged his plan to reform entitlements–which will be included in the GOP's 2012 budget to be unveiled in early April–would give ammunition to Democrats.
"Yes, is this a political weapon we are handing to our political adversaries – of course it is," Ryan said, but argued it was important to act on this issue now.
Democrats have already argued that Ryan plans to eliminate benefits for seniors. They point to a proposal he put out in 2008, which he called "A Roadmap for America's Future," that would partially privatize Social Security and begin to convert Medicare into a voucher program. But Ryan has made it clear that was his own plan, and was not drafted to be his party's position.
Based on over 500 town halls he's organized in his own Wisconsin district, Ryan argued that the public is ahead of the political parties and would support major changes to these government programs. He pointed out that he represents the "the classic swing district" and has been proposing reforms for years. "I'm still surviving," he said.
Ryan said he has not yet had a conversation with President Obama about the issue, but has asked for a meeting.
Criticizing the President for failing to address entitlement reform in his own 2012 budget released last month, Ryan said "actions matter and his actions suggest he's punting."
As negotiations continue over this year's spending bill, Ryan said a government shutdown is "still possible," but downplayed its impact, saying, "A shutdown is not a crash."
Asked what spending cuts he wants to see, Ryan quipped, "you should ask me what I wouldn't like to see cut."
Using his iPad to show a series of charts and graphs highlighting a wash of red ink growing in government debt, Ryan warned that the U.S needs to move now on reforms. "The faster you act the better off everyone is going to be because otherwise it's European austerity"
Ryan said of the three major entitlement programs, "Social Security is the easiest one to fix," and although it doesn't pose an immediate problem in terms of solvency, he said both parties could work together on some changes to the program. A bipartisan fix would show the public "that our government is not broken."
I want someone to come out with something. I know with Social Security, which is easier, that the retirement age should slowly be raised over the course of the next decade or two. The cap should also be removed altogether and should have these sports and movie starts contribute based on their bonuses as well. I happen to think that means testing should be considered, but that should be done with a review of tax returns. If the tax return is showing 1,000,000 in wages or more, then there should be some consideration on reducing what is paid in benefits.