Ryan Looks Down the Road
The man who might become Budget Committee chairman remains committed to fiscal solvency.


Robert Costa

Earlier this year, Rep. Paul Ryan, a 40-year-old Republican congressman from Wisconsin, published “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” his blueprint for balancing the budget. Despite much fanfare, Ryan’s proposal — which rigorously tackles federal entitlements, taxes, and spending — was left out of the House GOP’s “Pledge to America.” The omission, he says, does not signal a retreat by him or his party.

“I did not write the pledge,” Ryan says in an interview with National Review Online. “I did the first draft of the preamble and that’s pretty much what my involvement was. . . . I was consulted on policy ideas, but not on writing the thing. I was not one of its architects.” Rather than judge the pledge as an all-encompassing policy document, Ryan calls it an “important and necessary first step.” Its text, he notes, does not preclude him from continuing to battle for long-term fiscal solvency.

Should Republicans win the House, Ryan would likely ascend to the chairmanship of the Budget Committee, a powerful post. “We obviously are going to have to take on entitlement reform,” he says. “I don’t know what the budget will look like, but its form will be determined by the consensus I can get from at least 218 people. What I would hope to do is get this budget needle moving in the right direction.” Still, as he looks toward a possible scenario of divided government, Ryan is quick to say that he does not wish to “overpromise.”

For the moment, Ryan remains unsure about the exact future of the “Roadmap,” and whether he could package its components into a passable budget. But he is confident in his party’s ability to have an “adult conversation” on entitlements in coming months. Ryan says Republican leaders are supportive of his ongoing budget work and swats away whispers of intraparty turmoil.

Without hesitation, Ryan tells us that Rep. John Boehner, the House GOP leader, understands the economic stakes. “I think [Boehner] grasps where America is and what we’re confronting,” Ryan says. “John Boehner never once tried to talk me out of pushing these ideas and reforms. There has never been a discouraging comment or word from him on pushing the fold on big ideas.”

Beyond Boehner, Ryan says that his GOP colleagues on the Budget Committee are stalwart in their commitment to entitlement reform. “The culture on the Budget Committee is great,” he says. “Anybody who studies this problem or digs deep into the numbers is seriously frightened about the future of this country. They realize the urgency of the moment. After a sober review of the fiscal condition of this country, most people just put politics aside.”