Fact checks on the vice presidential debate

Topic: Defense

Paul Ryan:

“They proposed a $478 billion cut to defense to begin with. Now we have another $500 billion cut to defense that’s lurking on the horizon. They insisted upon that cut being involved in the debt negotiations, and so we have a $1 trillion cut. . . . You don’t cut defense by a trillion dollars. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Analysis: The $1 trillion figure is a worst-case scenario that both Republicans and Democrats say they want to avoid.

The Department of Defense must trim $487 billion under the Budget Control Act, the debt ceiling compromise reached last summer. But deeper cuts are coming if Congress does not find an alternative. The Budget Control Act called for $2.1 trillion in total projected deficit reductions between 2012 and 2021. Most of those cuts, $1.2 trillion, were unspecified, and a 12-member congressional “supercommittee” was charged with determining from where the money would come.

To promote bipartisan compromise, lawmakers included in the Budget Control Act a list of default cuts, known as sequesters, to be implemented if the supercommittee failed to reach an agreement. The supercommittee did fail, and the default cuts include another $500 billion from defense. Sequestration is part of what lawmakers often refer to as the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect next year unless the two parties reach a deal, and which could push the country back into a recession. A deal is not expected before Election Day, but some senators from both parties are working on a plan for possible consideration during the lame duck session.


Topic: Abortion

Joe Biden:

“I guess [Ryan] accepts Governor Romney’s position now because in the past he has argued there was rape and forcible rape. He’s argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still a crime to engage in having an abortion.”


Analysis: Ryan’s longtime position on abortion has been that it is acceptable only to protect the health of an expectant mother, but he has deferred to Romney’s broader exception during the election.

Biden’s accusation that Ryan “has argued there was rape and forcible rape” is missing important context. Last year, Ryan was a cosponsor of a bill that narrowed an exemption to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions. The Hyde Amendment allows federal dollars to be used for abortions in cases of rape and incest, but the proposed bill would have limited the incest exemption to minors and covered victims of “forcible rape.”

Critics of the bill suggested the term “forcible rape” could exclude women who are drugged and raped, mentally handicapped women who are coerced, and victims of statutory rape. Ryan’s co-sponsorship of the bill has been used by the Obama campaign to suggest that he believes there are different categories of rape.

While Ryan was a cosponsor, along with 226 other House members, Ryan did not draft the original language, which was eventually changed to remove the “forcible” qualifier.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, told the Globe in August that Ryan “sees no distinction” between “forcible rape” and any other kind of sexual assault.

Topic: Religious freedom

Paul Ryan:

“Look at what they’re doing with Obama­care with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.”


Analysis: The charge centers on an announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services in January that virtually all employers would be required to provide free contraception through their insurance plans under the 2010 national health care law.

Churches were exempted, but colleges, charities, and hospitals affiliated with religious groups were not.

After strong objections by Republicans and religious leaders, particularly Catholics, Obama outlined a compromise in February: Women employed by religiously affiliated organizations would still receive free contraception coverage, but the coverage would be funded by insurance companies, not by employers.

Obama’s compromise has failed to satisfy some Catholics. In June, the Catholic Health Association said the president’s proposal is “unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns of all of our members and other church ministries” in a letter to Health and Human Services.

The health association contended the Obama administration’s definition of a religious employer remains too narrow and expressed discomfort with “direct or indirect involvement” in providing contraception coverage.


Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.