Vice President Joe Biden attacked GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan at Thursday night's debate for cuts in Ryan's proposed budget that Biden said would that kick 200,000 children out of the Head Start early childhood program.
The vice president also said at one point that the Ryan budget would cut $450 billion from education—it seems likely that he misspoke and meant to say about $4.5 billion, which is the figure cited in this White House analysis of the cuts. He also criticized Ryan for plans to cut a college tuition tax credit.
Beyond that brief exchange, education barely registered in the 90-minute debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., which focused heavily on foreign policy.
Biden's line of criticism was not a new one for the Obama campaign. From the moment Ryan was named as GOP nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, the president's team has attacked his budget blueprint for what it says could be major cuts to education programs, including Head Start and Title I grants for disadvantaged students.
The Ryan plan, which was passed by the GOP-controlled House, but died in the Democratic-controlled Senate, has been the subject of a series of campaign commercials, including this one. And, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent around his March testimony on the plan today, just hours before the Ryan-Biden face-off.
But Republicans are quick to point out that the blueprint doesn't specify cuts to education programs. It would cut domestic discretionary spending, the broad category that includes K-12, but it's impossible to say just what the cuts to K-12 would be. And in the last debate, Romney said he would not cut education funding, although his campaign didn't elaborate on exactly what he meant by that.
For his part, Ryan slammed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided $100 billion for education, saying it failed to revive the economy.
"Was it a good idea to borrow all this money from countries like China and spend it on all these various different interest groups?" Ryan asked.
But Biden chided him for asking for a piece of the $831 billion in stimulus aid to fund energy projects in Ryan's own Wisconsin district—and vehemently defended the stimulus plan. "It was a good idea. Moody's and others said that this was exactly what we needed to stop this [economy] from going off the cliff," Biden said. "It set the conditions to be able to grow again."
Photo: Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin participate in the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky. —Mark Humphrey/AP