Behind the scenes, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the budget-committee chairman, is working closely with House Republican leaders and conservatives to forge party unity ahead of the vote on a short-term debt-limit extension, which is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
“He is talking to a lot of us,” says a GOP member. “He’s the guy who is making us comfortable with this thing. Even before the retreat, he’s been part of the talks.”
Indeed, House insiders say Ryan’s efforts are moving several undecided members to support the idea, which was initially met with some skepticism from the right because it doesn’t include spending cuts.
But Ryan’s case, members say, is pretty simple. He wants Republicans to shape the fiscal debate this year, and do it unencumbered by the threat of government default. As he sees it, the more unity on where the party is picking its battles, the better.
According to sources, Ryan explained the benefits of short-term extension at the recent GOP retreat and at a Republican Study Committee luncheon on Tuesday.
“He didn’t make a big show, but it was clear where he stood,” says a second member, who was at the RSC meeting.
Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, was also at Tuesday’s luncheon. The RSC, the House GOP’s leading conservative caucus, counts more than 160 Republicans as members, including Cantor, Ryan, and many of Ryan’s friends, such as Tom Price of Georgia.
The legislation, which would extend the nation’s borrowing limit for three months, has also won conservative support due to the leadership’s promise to push for a balanced budget within ten years and a provision which asks the Senate to pass a budget or risk losing its compensation.
After keeping a low profile following the presidential campaign, Ryan, the former GOP vice-presidential nominee, has reemerged as a pivotal force. He is considered to be one of Speaker John Boehner’s top allies, as well as a confidant of the House’s right flank.
If the House passes the extension on Tuesday, look for many Republicans to partly credit Ryan for its relatively painless passage, just days after it was introduced at a closed-door meeting at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va.