Fiscal Responsibility

Washington Post: Amid Debt Crisis, Paul Ryan Sat on the Sidelines

While Governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan tout Ryan’s record on deficit reduction, an unflattering Washington Post article tells a different story, with members of their own party criticizing Ryan’s lack of involvement on any meaningful efforts to reduce the deficit and his unwillingness to work across the aisle.

Key excerpts:

“Over the past two years, as others labored to bring Democrats and Republicans together to tackle the nation’s $16 trillion debt, Ryan sat on the sidelines, glumly predicting their efforts were doomed to fail because they strayed too far from his own low-tax, small-government vision.”

“As a member of an independent debt commission in 2010, Ryan voted against a bipartisan plan to cut borrowing by $4 trillion over the next decade by raising taxes as well as cutting spending. Through much of 2011, he insisted publicly that a ‘grand bargain’ on the budget was impossible, even as House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pursued a deal with President Obama. And Ryan asked Boehner not to name him to the congressional ‘supercommittee’ that took a final stab at bipartisan compromise last fall.”

“But as Washington braces for another push after the election to solve the nation’s budget problems, independent budget analysts, Democrats and some Republicans say Ryan has done more to burnish his conservative credentials than to help bridge the yawning political divide that stands as the most profound barrier to action.”

“‘If you start with the premise, as Ryan does, that our current path is unsustainable, then you have to be willing to do something about it,’ said Robert L. Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, which champions lower deficits. ‘Is it more important to prevent the debt from rising or to stick with your principles of lower taxes? So far, Ryan has chosen the purist route.’”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a close friend of Boehner’s who has been working with Democrats to try to bring a bipartisan debt-reduction plan to a vote in the Senate, agreed that Ryan had done little to advance the debate — ‘other than [offer] his budget, which was kind of a reiteration’ of the blueprint he had previously proposed.”

“‘I’ve never viewed Paul as one who gets into the fray from the negotiating standpoint,’ Chambliss said. ‘I don’t mean that he can’t do it. I just mean that he’s chosen not to.’”

“Ryan’s unwavering dedication to conservative principles has impressed the party’s restive class of House freshmen... But it has frustrated some of Ryan’s Republican colleagues, who have been forced to cut deals with Democrats to keep the government open and accomplish Republican goals, such as passing long-stalled free trade agreements. GOP aides noted that Ryan even voted against a measure, negotiated by House leaders, to dial back unemployment benefits and extend a temporary payroll tax holiday.”

“While Romney has characterized Ryan as a seasoned legislator with ‘an ability to work across the aisle’ to ‘find enough common ground to get things done,’ the seven-term Wisconsin congressman has no record of participating in any major bipartisan legislative achievement. Democrats say he would make a very different sort of vice president than Joseph Biden, a natural glad-hander who has taken the lead for Obama in negotiations with Republicans over taxes and deficit reduction.”

“‘His approach — my way or the highway — is precisely what’s wrong with this town. It’s the triumph of ideology,’ said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who served with Ryan on the independent fiscal commission chaired by Democrat Erskine B. Bowles and former Republican senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming. ‘The hard reality is, given the fact that we have divided government, both sides have to compromise in order to achieve a result. And Paul has refused to do that.’”

“Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a moderate who is retiring this year after a long career of deal making, said Ryan’s uncompromising approach has simply postponed the inevitable and wasted valuable time. ‘You put the country in a holding pattern during very tumultuous times when we’re dealing with some of the most consequential economic issues since the Great Depression,’ Snowe said. ‘We’ve been fighting from the last election to the next election. We’ve never stopped. That’s what to me doesn’t make any sense.’”