Ryan returns to Washington Thursday for spending vote

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) will take a break from campaigning and return to Washington on Thursday to vote on a House bill that funds the government for the next six months, officials said.

The House returned to session on Monday after a five-week recess that included the two major party conventions. Ryan is expected to miss votes through Wednesday as he campaigns in Washington state, Ohio and his home state of Wisconsin. His appearance in Congress on Thursday will be his first since Mitt Romney named him as his running mate more than a month ago.

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House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters he expected Ryan to support the six-month stopgap government-funding bill, even though it calls for spending at higher levels than the House Republican budget that Ryan authored.

The House is scheduled to be in session for less than three weeks before the November election, but McCarthy said he expected Ryan to come back from the trail “a couple more times.”

It is traditional for members of Congress running for president or vice president to miss long stretches of votes while they are out campaigning. Over the last year, both Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) have racked up absences. In 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) referred to the handful of members of his caucus who were eyeing the White House as “the presidentials” and said he kept in touch with them as to when he would need them in Washington for an important vote.

With few critical votes expected, Ryan might not be needed in Washington much at all before November. The Thursday vote on the spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, is expected to pass easily since it is the result of a bipartisan agreement with Democrats.

Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and he might get the chance to vote on a bill the panel is offering to replace the steep defense cuts that are set to take effect in 2013 as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. That vote could happen as early as Thursday, although it might be pushed to next week, an aide said.

A spokesman for the Budget Committee said that as of Monday, Ryan had not transferred any responsibilities of the chairman to other members.

A senior GOP aide said Ryan’s presence in the Capitol over the next several weeks would be less about the leadership’s need for his support on legislation and more about his desire to avoid missing significant votes.

Along with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Ryan and McCarthy form the “Young Guns” trio that helped flip the House to Republican control in 2010. McCarthy said he spoke to Ryan by phone the day Romney selected him and a few times since then. The two could be seen chatting for several minutes shortly before

Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last month in Tampa, Fla.

Ryan also spoke to House Republicans on a conference call during the August recess, McCarthy said.

“I see members are very excited about Paul,” he said. Ryan’s selection for the ticket “pushes a lot of the issues that the House has been working on for the last two years to the forefront as well. So members are more engaged.”

McCarthy said he’s spotted GOP lawmakers in photos during Ryan’s campaign stops around the country, saying he was encouraged by their participation and engagement with the campaign. Coordination between the campaign and the House GOP shouldn’t be difficult, as two of Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) top aides have taken a leave of absence to serve as spokesmen for the vice presidential nominee.

While House Republicans are happy Ryan’s presence on the national ticket will highlight their agenda and record, it can cause complications for Romney, who spent the better part of a year keeping his distance from the unpopular congressional leadership.

On Sunday, the former Massachusetts governor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it was “a mistake” for Republican lawmakers to agree to deep Pentagon cuts as a backup plan if Congress and the White House failed to agree on a far-reaching deficit-reduction deal. Those cuts are now looming at the beginning of 2013, and Ryan voted for the legislation that set them in motion.

Asked on Monday about Romney’s comments, McCarthy defended the GOP’s push last year to achieve spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. He blamed Democrats for not offering ideas in the congressional “supercommittee” created to try to reach a fiscal deal. (Both Republicans and Democrats on the panel rejected competing proposals.)

“I think it was a mistake that America has put themselves this far in debt,” McCarthy said. “I have found walking through that, that listening to the credit agencies, you could not continue the path that we’d had all the time before.”

He noted that House Republicans had already passed legislation to try to replace the scheduled cuts, known as sequestration, but it has stalled in the Democratic-led Senate.