In an article Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., challenged the president's claim that negotiations on the debt limit would be "unprecedented."
Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both agreed to debt ceiling deals, Ryan said, and Obama did, too, in 2011 with the Budget Control Act that cut spending in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling.
The president and the House should agree on "common sense reforms" of entitlements and the tax code, Ryan said, "if we start talking, and talking specifics, now."
"If Mr. Obama decides to talk, he'll find that we actually agree on some things," said the congressman, Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate in 2012.
"For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern," he wrote. "And the truth is, there's a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs."
Reforms were "vital," he said, citing figures from the Congressional Budget Office that spending other than for entitlement programs and debt payments will grow 17 percent in the next 10 years. At the same time, mandatory spending for programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will grow 79 percent.
"This isn't a grand bargain," Ryan added. "But right now, we need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today -- and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow."