Washington (CNN)–House Republican Budget chairman Paul Ryan directly challenged President Obama at a meeting with all House Republicans Wednesday, urging him to stop playing politics with Medicare and start leading on the issue of entitlement reform, according to Republican sources in the room.
The exchange came at a meeting at the White House with all House Republicans when Ryan told the president that he wasn't leading on the issue of Medicare and that leaders can either solve problems "or exacerbate them."
According to these sources, the Wisconsin Republican–who has been the main target of Democratic criticism because he authored the GOP proposal to dramatically change the current Medicare system–told the President during the White House meeting that he thought the discussions about reform started out right earlier this year. But he said the president's budget speech at George Washington University in April served as a signal to Democrats to paint Republicans as a party that doesn’t care about kids and grandparents. Ryan told the President it appeared he was more focused on the election in 2012 than dealing with entitlement reform this year.
Ryan also took issue with Democrats describing his proposal as turning Medicare into a "voucher" program and told the president Republicans were talking about a "premium support system." He said that his proposal would mean seniors would deal directly with Medicare, not with private insurance companies. Ryan argued his plan was an attempt to address entitlement reform and Democrats were demagoguing the issue.
After Ryan spoke his fellow Republicans gave him a standing ovation.
President Obama responded, according to one GOP source in the room, saying he's read Ryan's proposal and does not question that he's sincere about reforming entitlement programs. The president told Republicans he has made hard decisions and that he believes both sides want to solve the problem. He indicated that it's hard for both parties to find a solution because the public does not want any changes to Medicare. But the president said both parties need to come together on a bipartisan compromise.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the meeting as a “frank discussion,” but also told reporters, “I would not say it was confrontational.”
“I think it was productive, and while nobody hid from the fact that there are differences, that it was a useful conversation,” Carney said
After the meeting Ryan was asked by CNN about the exchange, but seemed to downplay it, telling reporters, "I simply explained what our plan is, how it works.”
Ryan said of his proposal, “It's been misdescribed by the President and many others, and so we simply described to him precisely what it is we've been proposing, so that he hears from us how our proposal works so that in the future he won't mischaracterize it."
California Republican David Dreier, who attended the White House meeting, told reporters the discussion between Ryan and the president “was very friendly and respectful," but he added there were comments from Ryan and other GOP members in the meeting and, "there was strength shown on both sides."
Dreier said President Obama told House Republicans after Ryan spoke that "entitlements are on the table," which he took as a positive sign. Dreier noted that Obama told those in the room that he had been briefed on the House GOP plan "with a slightly different take" than the one Ryan outlined.
CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.