Player of the Week: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Greg Nash

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been trying to iron out a budget deal with his counterpart in the upper chamber, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Contrary to conventional wisdom, there have been indications that a bipartisan deal will be struck by the end of this week. If an agreement is reached, it will be small. The elusive “grand bargain” is dead.

ADVERTISEMENT
But any budget accord, even if small, is sure to attract controversy. Any fee hikes, changes to pension benefits for government workers or sequestration alterations will surely spark opposition.

This is a key moment for Ryan, who has a bevy of career choices ahead of him. He could run for president in 2016, seek the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee in 2015, or mount a leadership bid in the coming years.

Ryan is not known as a dealmaker. The 43-year-old lawmaker doesn’t have a long legislative track record, and that will be used by his opponents if he runs for the White House.

The conservative base is a big fan of Ryan, largely because of his budget blueprint that was lambasted by President Obama and congressional Democrats.

The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee doesn’t always play it safe. He voted for the fiscal-cliff deal a year ago, and has repeatedly called for immigration reform.

That’s what makes his negotiations with Murray so interesting. If Ryan can forge a deal that would ease up sequestration while averting another government shutdown, it would be a big win — if the right doesn’t cry foul. Any deal Ryan strikes would have to attract a majority of the majority or the Wisconsin lawmaker’s clout would take a hit.

 

If talks collapse, critics will likely say Ryan hasn’t shown he is interested in finding common ground with Democrats and portray him as part of Washington’s problem.