Hoyer: Ryan’s legacy a mix of decency and debt

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerSenate passes spending bill to avert shutdown hours before deadline Top House Democrat: Parties 'much closer' to a COVID deal 'than we've ever been' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Country reacts to debate night of mudslinging MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday that the legacy of departing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's debate game plan? Keep cool and win Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose RNC chair on election: We are on track to win the White House MORE, who's making the rounds touting his leadership, will be irrevocably tied to the skyrocketing deficits under the Wisconsin Republican's watch.

Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol that Ryan “has decent instincts,” acknowledging that the pair had “some agreement in terms of how important the budget deficit was to deal with.”

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But in practice, Hoyer charged, Ryan’s reign was blemished by a historic lack of transparency when it came to passing bills through the House and an enormous spike in deficit spending — the very issue that had propelled Ryan’s rise through the ranks of the GOP.

“This Congress has been one of the most closed Congresses in history, and has been one of the most fiscally irresponsible Congresses in history — if not the most fiscally irresponsible,” said Hoyer, who’s in line to become majority leader early next year.

“And I think that, as he was Speaker during the course of those actions, it’ll be part of his legacy.”

Ryan was elected to Congress in 1998, as a 28-year-old former staffer on Capitol Hill, and quickly rose through the ranks on his reputation as a budget wonk and steward of taxpayer dollars. The Republicans’ fiscal track record since then, however, has been dismal.

President George W. Bush inherited a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over a decade when he took office in 2001. Eight years later, after a series of tax cuts and two unpaid wars, President Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit in 2009 alone.

In 2010, along with Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyChamber of Commerce's top political adviser ousted Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power MORE (R-Calif.) and former Rep. Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Campaign Report: Florida hangs in the balance Eric Cantor teams up with former rival Dave Brat in supporting GOP candidate in former district Bottom line MORE (R-Va.), Ryan wrote a book called “Young Guns,” which characterized the deficit spending under Obama as an existential threat to the nation’s economic well-being. Republicans, the power trio promised, would do better in the majority.

Voters gave the GOP that opportunity following the 2010 midterms, and Ryan rose to chair the Budget Committee from 2011 to 2015. In 2015, he shifted to chairman of the Ways and Means panel, until the surprise resignation of former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLongtime House parliamentarian to step down Five things we learned from this year's primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ohio) left a reluctant Ryan to take the Speaker’s gavel in October of that year.

The annual deficit, at the time of the shift, was $439 billion. As Ryan departs, the number has soared, hitting $779 billion in fiscal 2018, which ended Oct. 1, and projections approaching $1 trillion in 2019.

A major factor in the rising number has been the GOP’s tax overhaul, championed by Ryan and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE, which was adopted a year ago. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that law will add $1.9 trillion to the debt by the end of 2028.

Ryan, in a farewell speech delivered Wednesday afternoon at the Library of Congress, said a failure to “confront the debt crisis” — a problem he attributes to rising spending on entitlement programs like Medicare — is among his chief regrets as he leaves Washington. Immigration reform and efforts to tackle poverty are the others, he said.

“I recognize that these challenges are ones we haven’t made much progress on in recent years,” he said, “but I am confident we still have it in us to solve them.”

Ryan’s last day on Capitol Hill is Jan. 3.