The Hill’s player of the week: Paul Ryan

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama are closing in on what likely will be a historic deal on taxes and spending.

Once an agreement is reached, a key question will be: Does House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) support it?

Ryan signed on to Boehner’s letter to the president last month that committed $800 billion in revenue. Since then, Boehner has suggested he is willing to hike tax rates for the wealthy.

Ryan, a front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination, faces a difficult decision. If he backs the deal, Ryan will undoubtedly be criticized by some on the right who are strongly opposed to increasing taxes.

If he opposes it, critics on the left will rip him for currying favor with the GOP base ahead of the 2016 GOP presidential primary. Should Ryan vote no, that would set up an awkward situation in the Republican Conference, because most of Boehner’s leadership lieutenants and committee chairmen will vote yes.

It is worth noting that Ryan is revered by conservatives, even though he voted to add a drug benefit to Medicare in 2003 and supported TARP in 2008.

For the last few years, Ryan has been the party’s leader in trying to clean up the nation’s dismal fiscal outlook. He is a policy wonk who can read the political winds.

If Ryan backs Boehner, many conservatives in the House will follow his lead. How Ryan’s vote will play in 2016 remains to be seen.