Ryan re­turns to the Repub­li­can fore Of­fers so­lu­tions to im­passes, reaches out to re­li­gious right

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Nearly a year af­ter his de­feat as part of the 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial ticket, House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan is get­ting back into the pub­lic arena, step­ping into the mid­dle of the shut­down and debt fights and pre­par­ing to speak Fri­day to a pow­er­ful slice of the re­li­gious right.

While some of the new Repub­li­can stars have shot past Mr. Ryan — namely Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, who have used the high-pro­file stage of the Se­nate to make early waves — the gov­ern­ment shut­down has moved things back into the wheel­house of Mr. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can.

This week, the 43-year-old penned an op-ed lay­ing out a path out of the mess, and is one of the key ne­go­tia­tors for House Repub­li­cans if Democrats agree to the talks Repub­li­cans have pro­posed.

“It is hard to over­es­ti­mate the role that Paul has had in shap­ing the in­tel­lec­tual pol­icy po­si­tions of the con­tem­po­rary Repub­li­can Party,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can.

“That is a very dif­fer­ent way of go­ing about busi­ness than some of his col­leagues in the Se­nate who have not done the hard in­tel­lec­tual work. I don’t see any­one over there that has come close to be­com­ing this rel­e­vant in the leg­isla­tive process or the in­tel­lec­tual process of mov­ing the Repub­li­can Party to ground that it can stand on and grow,” he said.

But Mr. Ryan’s op-ed propos­ing to cou­ple an in­crease in the gov­ern­ment’s debt ceil­ing with “com­mon-sense re­forms of the coun­try’s en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams and tax code” was a loser among some grass-roots ac­tivists, who said he failed to men­tion halt­ing Oba­macare.

They said he left the im­pres­sion that he was not fully com­mit­ted to the Cruz-led push to de­mand gov­ern­ment fund­ing be put on hold un­til the law is scrapped.

“He doesn’t men­tion Oba­macare at all, ver­sus th­ese other guys who will say, ‘We will do any­thing we can to shut down Oba­macare,’” said Adam Bran­don, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Free­domworks, a con­ser­va­tive non­profit group. “I kind of scratched my head when he is fo­cus­ing on So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care when we are in the mid­dle of a very big fight over the next big flawed pro­gram: Oba­macare.”

Add that to Mr. Ryan’s out­spo­ken sup­port for leg­is­la­tion mov­ing through Congress to le­gal­ize il­le­gal im­mi­grants — a stance he shares with Mr. Ru­bio but not Mr. Cruz or Mr. Paul — and some ac­tivists said he is not do­ing much to ex­cite them.

“To say there is deep dis­ap­point­ment with Paul Ryan in the last few months over th­ese var­i­ous is­sues would be an un­der­state­ment,” said Sandy Rios, vice pres­i­dent of Fam­ily-Pac Fed­eral and morn­ing host for AFR Talk.

“One has to ask the age-old ques­tion: Has con­gress­man Ryan been spend­ing too much time in Wash­ing­ton so that he’s lost the com­mon sense of Wis­con­sin? We thought those deep roots would in­oc­u­late him from the in­sa­tiable search for com­pro­mise that is D.C., but ap­par­ently they did not,” she said.

Mr. Ryan worked as a leg­isla­tive aide in the mid-1990s be­fore he was elected to Congress in 1998 and made the jump from leg­isla­tive back bencher to head of the pow­er­ful House Bud­get Com­mit­tee.

He is far less flashy than Mr. Cruz, who won his seat last year and de­liv­ered a 21hour fil­i­buster on the Se­nate floor this year. Mr. Ryan also doesn’t have the charisma of Mr. Ru­bio or the ide­o­log­i­cal pas­sion of Mr. Paul — both of whom were elected in the tea party wave of 2010.

Sur­rounded by re­porters Thurs­day af­ter a House Repub­li­can meet­ing on the debt de­bate, Mr. Ryan nei­ther is­sued any pointed de­mands nor fired any barbs, but in­stead said he is ask­ing for a chance to ne­go­ti­ate.

Some po­lit­i­cal pros said Mr. Ryan’s more nu­anced ap­proach sig­nals that he may be more in­ter­ested in as­cend­ing the lead­er­ship lad­der in the House than he is in try­ing to com­pete in a crowded field for the White House in 2016.

“My dad used to have a say­ing that, ‘Things that are alive swim against the waves. Things that are dead sort of float with the waves,’” said Ken Black­well, for­mer sec­re­tary of state in Ohio and fel­low at the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil, adding that peo­ple tend to think that Mr. Cruz and Mr. Paul are more likely than Mr. Ryan to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo in a con­ser­va­tive-move­ment fash­ion.

“If he is po­si­tion­ing him­self to be the next speaker of the House when that be­comes a pos­si­bil­ity, that would ex­plain some of his moves be­cause I don’t think Paul or Cruz have any am­bi­tion to be the next ma­jor­ity or mi­nor­ity leader in the Se­nate,” Mr. Black­well said. “That would set in my mind the ba­sis for them to have two dif­fer­ent ap­proaches.”

Polls show vot­ers put Mr. Ryan right in the mid­dle of the scrum for the 2016 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

“At this point, no one stands out from the pack and Ryan is part of the pack,” said Peter A. Brown, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity Polling In­sti­tute.

Mr. Ryan has a chance to bol­ster his stock Fri­day among Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives when he ad­dresses the an­nual Val­ues Vot­ers Sum­mit via video.

“Our job is to pre­serve our val­ues in the 21st cen­tury,” Mr. Ryan will say, ac­cord­ing to his of­fice. “We need to com­pletely re­think gov­ern­ment’s role in help­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble. We need to com­pletely re­think gov­ern­ment’s role in health care. That means we can never give up on re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare.”

Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul and Mr. Ru­bio, as well as for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum, are sched­uled to speak in per­son at the sum­mit. Only Mr. Ryan, cit­ing the bud­get talks and the gov­ern­ment shut­down, has said he will ap­pear via video.

Mr. Ryan also is sched­uled next month to head­line Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s an­nual birth­day bash, putting him back in the first-in-the-na­tion cau­cus state.

“Paul Ryan is a thought­ful leader and is the one per­son in Wash­ing­ton who has come up with a plan to get Amer­ica back on track fi­nan­cially,” Mr. Branstad said. “I asked him to come to Iowa be­cause I be­lieve he has dis­played ex­cel­lent lead­er­ship in Wash­ing­ton in a time when tough de­ci­sions need to be made.”

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