Thursday, April 26, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Paul Ryan gets to work

Things had been going swimmingly in the charmed political life of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Ayn Rand.

While his stint as a vice presidential nominee ended in a bigger mess than when Mitt Romney transported the family dog in a crate on the roof of his car, Ryan emerged with his tea party beefcake image intact and his own presidential prospects for 2016 very much alive.

And then Ryan committed the unpardonable Washington sin. He decided to do his job in crafting a federal budget agreement. Worse yet, the Wisconsin Republican actually spoke to a Democrat. Paul Ryan, thy name is Quisling.

Perhaps out of a sense of Beltway survival, Ryan should have heeded an old Washington axiom.

There is a theory about surviving on the Hill: If you want to have a nice secure career in the House, never step forward and assume a leadership role, especially on a potentially volatile issue. No good will come from this.

A cynical view of how Congress works? Absolutely. Astutely accurate? You betcha.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Ryan was hailed as the messiah of The Villages — a fierce, principled, uncompromising Scrooge-esque budget raptor willing to throw the entire Cratchit family into the streets if it would save $1.35.

It was easy back in the good ol' days of 2012 for Ryan to be the hail-fellow-well-grumpy of the Agenda 21 wing of the Republican Party. All Ryan had to do was pal around with Sean Hannity, whining about how the country was on the fiscal precipice of ruin.

So when the time arrived to actually craft a budget, it was only natural the penurious Ryan would work with the Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington to forge a deal. Uh oh.

As Maynard G. Krebs once so succinctly observed: "WORK!!!!!!"

What resulted was a bipartisan agreement setting the 2014 budget at $1.012 trillion. The deal also restored $63 billion in domestic spending, offset by replacing some sequester cuts with increases in fees. The package also trimmed the deficit by $22 billion over the next decade.

Of course, the deal is not perfect, managing to offend Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. That's what happens when parties involved in a negotiation are willing to compromise for a common good.

Before you could say "Kenyan birth certificate," the far right frothing began, accusing Ryan of being a sellout as opponents lined up like the hysterical passenger-slapping scene in Airplane to take a whack at the now-former centerfold for the Pitchfork Review.

Over eight terms in Congress, Ryan accumulated a towering legislative record of exactly two laws bearing his fingerprints. One renamed a post office in his district. The other modified an excise tax on hunting arrows. Not exactly a Sen. Robert Byrd workload here.

And now, merely because Ryan reached across party lines to find consensus on the budget with Murray and avoid another senseless government shutdown, the stink eyes came out.

The Club for Growth, Heritage Action, the Americans for Prosperity and a Koch brother to be named later opposed Ryan and the budget deal. So did other presidential contenders such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio, who never met a issue he couldn't run away from, was Eddie Haskell 2.0 in his disingenuousness. It was Rubio who, when given the opportunity to lead on immigration reform, crawled into a fetal position and spurned his own immigration reform bill when the going got tough.

Yet there was Rubio, spinning his freshman beanie and bemoaning how long-term solutions in Washington are all but impossible. He ought to know.

After watching Ryan go from tea party hero to villain, perhaps you're wondering where another Florida Republican like Lakeland's Dennis Ross stands on the budget deal?

"He's inclined to vote for it," Ross' flack said. Inclined?

Ross did vote for the budget deal Thursday night.

I guess there was no sense rushing headlong into things.

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