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CBS's O'Donnell Slams Paul Ryan for 'Cut' in Veterans' Benefits

Norah O'Donnell unsurprisingly took aim at Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday's CBS This Morning over part of his bipartisan budget proposal that he presented with Democratic Senator Patty Murray: "Military members want to know why you asked them to take a cut, in terms of cost [of] living increases...the men and women in this country, who fight and die for this country, want to know why they should not get a cost of living increase like they have in the past."

The Wisconsin Republican replied by pointing out that the Defense Department had asked for this reduction, and veterans would get an increase later in life: [MP3 audio available here; video below]

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R), HOUSE BUDGET CMTE. CHAIRMAN: This is a reform that was asked for us by the defense folks – by DOD and people in the defense community – because this is a part of their budget that is squeezing so – all the readiness; all the things that they want to buy. So, it's a problem that the Pentagon has with their budget, and it's only for young retirees who are in working age.

What happens is after you put 20 years in – typically, you go get another career, and your pension supplements that. So, before you're 62, your inflation update won't be as high as after you're 62. And when you turn 62, you'll get a catch-up provision. So, this reflects the reality of the fact that a lot of people who are pre-retirement age – but have already retired – are doing two jobs. But more importantly, Norah, this frees up more money for the Pentagon, so that we can meet our readiness needs.

O'Donnell has a history of going after Congressman Ryan. On the March 25, 2012 edition of Face the Nation, the CBS anchor used the Obama White House's talking points against his budget proposals at the time: "The current tax rate for the wealthiest Americans is 35 percent. You would reduce it to 25 percent, and the White House says that under your plan, you would give millionaires in this country a 150,000 [dollar] tax cut." By contrast, she tossed softballs at Democrat Chuck Schumer later in the program.

Later in 2012, O'Donnell again faced off with Ryan on Face the Nation, and likened his misstated marathon time to Al Gore's false claim that he invented the Internet. She also twice hounded the former vice presidential candidate on CBS This Morning that year. On the July 20, 2012 edition of the morning show, the anchor adopted the left's spin on extending the current tax rates, and laughed when the congressman affirmed that "they're not tax cuts." O'Donnell then replied, "Oh, Congressman, come on!"

Just under three months later, during the last weeks of the 2012 presidential campaign, the CBS journalist pressed Ryan to explain running mate Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remark, as well as Romney's exchange with President Obama over the September 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The full transcript of the Paul Ryan interview from Thursday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is also on Capitol hill. Congressman, good morning.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R), HOUSE BUDGET CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, Charlie. How are you doing, Norah?

[CBS News Graphic: "Budget Battle: Rep. Ryan Answers Critics Of Bipartisan Deal"]

ROSE: You worked hard to put this bill together – you and Senator [Patty] Murray. Yet, at the same time, conservative groups are blasting it, and Speaker [John] Boehner is blasting them. Do you share his criticism of those conservative groups who are criticizing this?

RYAN: Well – well, we were a little caught off guard that they came out against the agreement before we even reached an agreement. And so, one would like to think that you'll get criticized after people know what it is you're doing – not before they know what you're doing. So, that was a little frustrating.

But look Charlie, this is divided government. A divided government doesn't work as smoothly or as easily as you would like it to work. What matters to me is, are we moving in the right direction? This is a modest step in the right direction, but nonetheless, we're going in the right direction. This isn't our budget. This isn't everything we want. I want to balance the budget and pay off the debt. That's not what this does, but this prevents the government from shutting down in January and in October, and it results in net deficit reduction. Ninety-two percent of the sequester is left in place with this agreement. So look, in divided government you don't get all the things you want. And what Patty and I decided to do does not require either of us to violate our principles, but see where common ground lies. And that's the result of this.

[CBS News Graphic: "Bipartisan Budget Act: -Relieves $63 billion in sequester cuts; -Cut deficit by $23 billion; -Adds user fees Source: Rep. Paul Ryan; Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013"]

NORAH O'DONNELL: But you raise the cap on federal spending to over a trillion dollars. So, address the specifics here, and the criticism from conservatives, who say you are spend – you are raising spending now and just promising debt reduction later.

RYAN: Well, Norah, that's just the nature of how budgets work. When you change entitlement spending – or what we call mandatory spending – it takes a while for those savings to accumulate. But they're permanent savings, which are paying for temporary sequester relief – or a temporary spending increase.

Two years ago, the budget I passed, we were fighting for a trillion, 19 billion dollars in this category of spending – discretionary spending. Under this agreement, we won't see that number until the year 2017, so we're quite a ways ahead of schedule. And the $63 billion of sequester relief – half of which goes to defense, which is a big concern of ours – is offset with $85 billion of savings from the auto-pilot side of government spending that we very rarely touch. So, we think this is going in the right direction.

Those savings compound; they're permanent in so many ways; and – and that's why we think this is a good agreement. Nobody got everything they wanted, but we advanced our principles – albeit in a modest way – and we're going to keep going for more down the road.

ROSE: That's an interesting point. You're going to keep going for more down the road-

RYAN: Absolutely-

ROSE: But this is a small bargain – a small compromise – not a grand bargain-

RYAN: That's right; that's right-

ROSE: Does it herald a new day on Capitol Hill in working to try to find common ground, and not shut down the government, and not do the things that so anger the American people?

RYAN: That's basically what Patty and I decided throughout all these negotiations. We, sort of, realized that if one of us requires the other to violate their core principle, we're going to get nowhere. And that's what happened with all these grand bargain negotiations. So, we decided, let's see where the common ground exists, and let's, at a minimum, see if we can prevent these government shutdowns. And that's what this result – that's the result of this agreement. And so, we think finding common ground was the right way to go. It's a modest step in the right direction, and – and that's where we think good government can lie. This is a broken government; it's divided; and this is how we can make it work.

[CBS News Graphic: "Congress Approval Rating: December, 12%; November, 9%; Source: Gallup Poll; Margin of Error: +/- 4% Pts."]

O'DONNELL: Congressman, I just have to get to ask you, though – because military members want to know why you asked them to take a cut, in terms of cost in – living increases. You know the men and women in this country, who fight and die for this country, want to know why they should not get a cost of living increase like they have in the past.

RYAN: This is a reform that was asked for us by the defense folks – by DOD and people in the defense community – because this is a part of their budget that is squeezing so – all the readiness; all the things that they want to buy. So, it's a problem that the Pentagon has with their budget, and it's only for young retirees who are in working age.

What happens is after you put 20 years in – typically, you go get another career, and your pension supplements that. So, before you're 62, your inflation update won't be as high as after you're 62. And when you turn 62, you'll get a catch-up provision. So, this reflects the reality of the fact that a lot of people who are pre-retirement age – but have already retired – are doing two jobs. But more importantly, Norah, this frees up more money for the Pentagon, so that we can meet our readiness needs.

O'DONNELL: All right. Congressman Ryan, good to see you – thank you.

RYAN: Thanks, Norah.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.