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Ryan puts a softer face on his budget reforms

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) made strides toward putting a softer face on his regimen of budgetary reforms in the face of liberal critics, who say it is especially conservative and victimizes the poor.

Ryan delivered his major fiscal policy address at Georgetown University, where he defended his budget roadmap in the context of his own Catholic faith.

"The overarching to threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father himself, Pope Benedict, has charged governments, communities and individuals running up high debt levels are 'living at the expense of future generations and living in untruth.'" Ryan said.

The Ryan budget has weathered criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic lay people for its cuts to social programs, in conflict with the church's social justice teachings. A small group of protesters from the liberal group Catholics United gathered outside the venue for Ryan's speech at Georgetown, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Citing the principle of subsidiarity, Ryan went on to say that smaller, more localized government is better able to serve the needy than federal bureaucrats. At times Ryan seemed to echo Mitt Romney's language on the president's "government-centered society" versus his vision of an "opportunity society."

The speech attracted considerable attention because of Ryan's role as a highly-speculated possible running mate for Romney this November. In a question-and-answer session following the speech, Ryan would not dismiss the possibility of serving as Romney's vice presidential nominee, but said he was "content with my job" and didn't want to deal in "hypotheticals."

Democrats have been eager to make Ryan's budget proposals the last two years, especially should the Wisconsin Republican join the national ticket. They accused Ryan's plan of ending Medicare as most Americans have come to know it, and have gotten a degree of political traction from that attack.

To that end, Ryan's speech Thursday was partly directed toward couching his plan in a post-partisan aura. He made strides toward emphasizing fairness and economic mobility.

"Pro-growth tax reform, by lowering rates for all Americans while closing loopholes that primarily benefit the well off, can eliminate unfairness in the tax code and ensure a level playing field for all," he said.

And at another point, Ryan sought to cast off the shackles of part affiliation. "These principles are not exclusive to one party," he said, referring to the concept of American exceptionalism, which GOP presidential candidates have stressed on the campaign trail this spring.