Proving that politics makes strange bedfellows, House Budget Committee Chairman (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) agreed today on a two-year budget deal, ending the stalemate that shutdown the government for 16 days in October. Considered the conservative enforcer when he ran in 2012 as former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate, Ryan’s sudden willingness to compromise shows he has his sights on the 2014 Midterm election and beyond. Considered among the possible frontrunners for the GOP nomination in 2016, Ryan’s sudden turnabout hints strongly at his future plans. “We have broken through the partisanship and the gridlock,” said Murray, patting herself and Ryan on the back for reaching the first bipartisan budget in divided Congress since 1986. Hoping for approval before Congress breaks for the Christmas recess, Republicans have much more to gain than Democrats, preventing another government shutdown Jan. 15.
Under the 2011 “sequestration” or mandatory spending cuts, Congress was supposed to cap the U.S. Budget at $967 billion. Ryan’s budget provides $63 billion in sequestration relief, funding a host of government programs conservative hoped would fall under the budget ax. Ryan and Murray’s new budget provides $22 billion more for deficit reduction already at the lowest levels since 2008, before the economic meltdown went in full swing. ‘I see this agreement as a step in the right direction,” said Ryan, with the double entendre noted: Fixing the budget and launching his 2016 bid for president. Picking the Tea Party favorite Ryan was largely seen as sinking Romney’s 2012 campaign, especially after Ryan started going after Medicare and Social Security. Proving that he’s learned from his mistakes, Ryan’s conciliatory tone marks a serious remake of his conservative identity, now showing voters he’s capable of mainstream politics.
October’s budget stalemate that shutdown the government was the GOP’s last-ditch attempt to stop Obamacare. With House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refusing to default the government Nov. 1, Republicans reluctantly reopened the government and increased the nation’s debt ceiling. Ryan was the lead instigator in October’s government shutdown and promise to default the government. His sudden flip-flip—while welcomed—shows trasparent intent of his future political plans. “This agreement makes sure that we don’t have a government shutdown scenario in January, it makes sure we don’t have another government shutdown in October. It makes sure we don’t lurch from crisis-to-crisis,” said Ryan, presenting his new, softer side to the press. Let there be no mistake, Ryan hopes to sell himself as the new GOP compromiser, marginalizing conservative GOP hopefuls like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Saying the budget deal furthers “Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions,” Rubio hopes to placate the Tea Party. Ryan made the point that compromise is the only way forward not backward, as Rubio suggests, to stubbornly advocate one extreme position or another. “Spending levels were set by law at $967 billion,” said Tim Phillips, president of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, “Exceeding those levels by $45 billion takes us in the wrong direction, further from fiscal responsibility,” said Phillips, refusing to acknowledge the 3.6% third quarter growth rate and 7.0% unemployment rate. Budget deficits without the sequester continue to drop based on expanding the tax base, the only real way to economic recovery. GOP plans to cut the budget have only made a sick economy worse by slashing government spending. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned Republicans about slashing the budget.
Showing that conservatives won’t give up their plan to shrink the size of the federal government, Ryan has his hands full containing conservatives. “We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for most Americans to attain the American Dream,” said Rubio, preferring platitudes over reality. Under Obama’s economic policies, the Dow Jones Industrials have more than doubled since he took office Jan. 20, 2009. More than 7 million jobs have been recovered from the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Budget deficits have shrunk from $1.4 trillion to about $640 billion for 2013, not because of the sequester but because the economy has added so many jobs. Read GDP for the third quarter hit 3.6%, the highest level since 2007. Rubio knows the all-important debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest level since Clinton balanced the budget in 1998.
Ryan’s new role as GOP budget-compromiser-in-chief shows one on the fastest makeovers in U.S. history. While it’s admirable Ryan has seen the light, his past loyalty to the budget-slashing, government-shrinking Tea Party makes his do-over less credible. When you consider the abysmally low Congressional approval ratings and next year’s Midterm elections, Ryan’s move today makes sense for the GOP. “While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward,” said Boehner, promising to put the measure to a full House vote on Friday before the Christmas recess. Facing the Midterms next November, the GOP needs all the help it can get rehabbing its image. “In divided government you don’t always get what you want,” said Ryan, putting his credibility on the line pushing fiscal conservatives to back his plan. If Ryan sticks to his guns, he’ll show mainstream voters that he’s a legitimate player somewhere down the road.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.