Mitt Romney said yesterday that one of Paul Ryan's main jobs in his administration will be to work with Congress to forge bipartisan solutions to our nation's problems. Considering the gridlock that strangles any real solutions in Washington, that may be one of the most important jobs in a new administration. How might Ryan perform in such a role?
Let's set aside The Post's observation yesterday that in seven congressional terms, Ryan has passed two bills into law: renaming a post office and removing an excise tax on parts used to make arrows. (The congressman bow-hunts.) Most congressmen, given the way House rules and seniority work, have few laws to their name. A better measure of whether Ryan would be an effective dealmaker might be to look at his behavior during the debt-celing crisis. Ryan was the leader of the Tea Party Republicans who were determined to brook no compromise and were primarily responsible for the debacle that downgraded the nation's credit rating and delivered a serious setback to our economic recovery. Ryan let John Boehner know that his powerful Tea Party faction would have none of any "grand bargain" on the debt that the president and the speaker were playing footsie with. We'll probably have to wait for Bob Woodward's definitive account of what happened during the summer of 2011 debt negotiations, but the current first draft of history suggests Ryan opposed any meaningful compromise because he couldn't sell it to the Tea Party extremists and he thought it would benefit Obama politically.
Some time after Obama's election, Ryan converted to the Tea Party worldview. Having voted for many measures that dramatically increased the debt throughout his career, he had a conversion. One may question whether this was based on principle or convenience, but what really matters is that the Ryan of today is uniquely ill-suited to brokering compromise. It's his way or the highway, and if Romney thinks that sells on Capitol Hill, he hasn't spent much time there.