Republican Governor Terry Branstad is offering a strong defense of a Republican plan for the federal budget that includes a shift to Medicare vouchers for Americans who’re under the age of 55. 

Those who aren’t yet in the Medicare system or who are within a decade of becoming eligible for Medicare would instead acquire insurance on the open market when they reach retirement age.  Branstad says if Democrats have a better idea for dealing with the federal government’s financial plight, they should unveil it.

“I guess that’s what aggravates me about the people that come out against everybody that’s got an idea to try and reduce the federal…deficit. It takes a lot of courage to recommend that,” Branstad says. “I guess that’s why I was very complimentary of Paul Ryan because he at least has come out with a comprehensive plan. And there are a lot of people that want to criticize it, but what’s their alternative?”

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has drawn up a plan that includes the changes for Medicare.  The Republican-led U.S. House has endorsed the plan, but Democrats and some Republicans in the U.S. Senate this week joined to reject it. Branstad defends Ryan’s plan.

“Let me just say this about Paul Ryan: I have been very impressed with this young man. I think he has great courage,” Branstad says. “Nobody of either party has had the guts to stand up and say, ‘We need to take on entitlements,’ because everybody knows that this country cannot survive going the direction that we’re going.”

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called the Ryan plan “right-wing social engineering” but then has apologized personally to Ryan, and this week Gingrich publicly defended Ryan’s proposals. Branstad says Gingrich made a mistake, but has since “somewhat” recovered from it.

A Democrat won a congressional seat in New York state this week, beating a Republican candidate who had embraced the Ryan plan.