On Tuesday night, a budget deal that would not only keep the government open but also raise the debt ceiling through 2017 was introduced on the House floor.  Outgoing speaker of the House John Boehner, who was part of the small team that negotiated the compromise, called it a "good deal" given the alternatives.  Incoming speaker of the House Paul Ryan said the deal "stinks," adding: "This is not not the way to do the people's business."

If you could see me right now, I would be rolling my eyes.  Why? Because Boehner and Ryan are pulling the oldest trick in the book: The good cop/bad cop routine.

Boehner knows that the only way Ryan will have any chance of succeeding is if he's not constantly operating under the threat of a government shutdown or defaulting on the nation's credit card bills.  Boehner also knows he is a short-timer -- he's set to formally resign on Friday --  so it doesn't really matter if the tea party wing of the GOP conference, represented by the Freedom Caucus, hates him. They already hate him -- and are one of the big reasons that he isn't staying in his current job. Boehner has already heard all of the things the right says about him -- sellout, traitor and so on and so forth -- and knows none of it matters where he's going.

So, Boehner takes the heat and lets Ryan take "umbrage" against the way the deal was negotiated -- largely out of sight of the public and with the input of a very small number of members. Ryan's high road take on the budget deal allows him to a) vote against it (not a big deal since the legislation is going to need lots and lots of Democratic votes to pass) and b) retain credibility with the party's ideological warriors in Congress. If Ryan had been seen as approving of a compromise cut by Boehner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the White House, his chances of succeeding as speaker -- which are already not great -- would be zero.

But, if you think that Ryan, in his heart of hearts, thinks that this budget deal "stinks", then you have not been paying attention to politics in, say, the last few centuries. Remember that it was Ryan along with Washington State Sen. Patty Murray (D) who negotiated the last major budget deal in 2013.  The WaPo writeup of that deal included this paragraph:

With the deal already under fire from conservatives for weakening the sequester, Ryan argued that the package represents “a clear improvement on the status quo” by replacing one-time cuts to agency budgets with permanent savings from other programs.


None of the above is meant as a criticism. This whole thing is politics -- and smart politics. It's a selfless gambit by Boehner to give Ryan his best possible chance of being an effective speaker.  The question going forward, however, is how does Ryan manage the big job when he doesn't have an outgoing foil like Boehner to play off of?

I can guarantee you no one else in the GOP leadership will be willing to play the bad cop for Ryan like Boehner currently is. Why? Because they are not politicians eyeing the exit; they want to keep their jobs and maybe even move up the leadership ladder at some point. Angering the right -- in Congress or in the party's base more broadly -- is a sure fire way to tank a career.

That means that the burden to cut hard deals and sell them to his conference will fall squarely on Ryan. He's the only person among House Republicans who might be able to pull off that dual task. But, without Boehner voluntarily playing the fall guy, Ryan's job is going to get a lot harder in the coming weeks and months.

What would be cut and what would be kept in outgoing House Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the debt ceiling (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)