THE VILLAGES, Fla. - Despite the sweltering heat and a looming thunderstorm, thousands of Mitt Romney supporters came to a town square in a Central Florida retirement community to hear the message of his newly crowned running-mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Ryan got cheers from the crowd, mainly made up of retired or soon-to-be retired voters, when he introduced his mother Betty as a means to talk about Medicare.
The Romney/Ryan plan to reform Medicare had at least one woman in the crowd concerned.
A woman in her late 50s told Local 6's Lauren Rowe she was a lifelong Republican but was cautiously optimistic about Paul Ryan because she wasn't sure if she understood the ticket's take on Medicare.
Minutes after his speech, Rowe had five minutes with the Congressman in a one-on-one interview.
Ryan instantly disputed a Congressional Budget Office figure that estimates his budget plan would reduce discretionary spending in half.
"That's over the course of decades. That's really not an accurate measure of discretionary spending. That's a percent of the economy. The reason is the economy grows much faster and is bigger relative to the size of government," said Ryan.
The discretionary spending in the plan is actually over a course of 10 years, not decades.
Rowe wanted to know how the cuts would affect Central Florida's Space Coast.
"What would the cut in discretionary spending mean for NASA?" she asked.
Ryan answered by categorizing space spending as a national security budget item.
"We don't endorse these pending cuts that are coming in national security so we believe in a strong national defense in a doctrine of peace through strength and we believe that includes a strong space program as well. The space program and national security are one and the same as far as we're concerned," he said.
NASA's budget does not currently come under the defense budget, and although Romney plans to increase defense spending, it is not clear if NASA will become part of that budget to receive additional funding or not.
Ryan voted against the 2010 NASA authorization bill, but when Rowe asked him about his record, he pointed toward his running mate.
"Well, remember, I'm joining the Romney-Ryan ticket, so I am supporting the Romney budget and there are various different budget things we've been dealing through in Congress, but the matter is this: we believe in a strong national defense, we don't believe in these reckless cuts that President Obama is placing on our national security and we think a vibrant space program is an incredible part of having a strong national security and that needs to be maintained," said Ryan.
Rowe next asked about the topic of the day: Medicare.
"I'm under 55 and I'm going to have fewer benefits when I reach the age of 67, does that mean I'm going to put less money out of my paycheck now to pay for Medicare?" she asked.
"We have a bankrupt program we are looking at. What we're doing is making sure the program doesn't go bankrupt and it's a program we're proposing that's bipartisan that came out of the Clinton commission to save Medicare in the late 90s. It has bipartisan support in Congress today. So those of us who are younger, when we become Medicare eligible, we have a list of guaranteed affordable options, including traditional Medicare to pick from. It works like the plan I have a as member of Congress, as federal employees, like Medicare advantage works for today's seniors," said Ryan.
As a final question Rowe asked Ryan about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which changes the statute of limitations on fair pay lawsuits.
The act, which was signed into law by Obama in 2009, amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to reset the statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit with each new discriminatory paycheck.
Ryan voted against the act.
"I was worried about some of the legal issues involved in that. I worry about a rash of lawsuits. The real question is what is this economy doing for women women have been the hardest hit in this economy," said Ryan.
The Congressman traveled to New Hampshire Monday where he had his first joint-campaign stop with Romney.
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