Paul Ryan’s New Republican Playbook

3 minute read

House Speaker John Boehner found himself boxed into yet another corner just days after announcing plans to step down. His chosen successor, majority leader Kevin McCarthy, had been denied the top job by the same conservative rebellion that had bedeviled Boehner. As chaos loomed, he turned to Ways and Means chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. But Ryan didn’t want the job. So Boehner, a fellow Catholic, brought in the big guns, enlisting party elders, donors and even Timothy Dolan, the New York Cardinal, who’d previously served in Milwaukee, where he’d grown close to Ryan. Maybe the Catholic guilt helped. But before agreeing to take the job, Ryan made clear that he would do it in his own way:


Ryan wants to be relieved of many of the duties that consumed previous Speakers, everything from fundraising to committee organization to day-to-day management. Instead he’d like to focus on the big picture, taking the GOP “from being an opposition party to being a proposition party,” as he puts it. Boehner offered to help, by forcing through a bill in his final days that will forestall a major budget and credit showdown until after the 2016 election. That will allow Ryan to focus on new legislative ideas on everything from poverty reduction to tax reform.


Ryan promises that he won’t be dictating upcoming legislation as Boehner often did. He’ll be asking committees to come up with it themselves. Then it will go through the long-neglected process of hearings, markups and amendments. Many of the conservatives’ complaints derive from the fact that the House is governed in top-down fashion, and they want more input.


In 2008, as ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Ryan introduced his Roadmap for America’s Future Act. It garnered only eight co-sponsors and never made it out of committee, but it did make him the hero of the forming Tea Party. Ryan always said it was the first offer in what he considered a long negotiation on the country’s financial future. And sure enough, it eventually led him to a compromise two-year budget in 2013 that he worked out with Senate Democrats, who still praise Ryan for the effort. Boehner has high hopes that Ryan will be able to cut more deals without losing the faith of conservative hard-liners. “Listen, Paul knows how to do this,” he told reporters on Oct. 27. “He knows the players, and he has the respect of the players that make these decisions. So I don’t think he’ll have any problem at all.”

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