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

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' News outlets choose their darlings, ignore others' voices Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday that the legacy of departing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas 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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

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 McCarthyAmerica's newest comedy troupe: House GOP Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices Modernize Congress to make it work for the people MORE (R-Calif.) and former Rep. Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington 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 BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' 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 TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it 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.