According to my sources, the House is poised to pass a six-week extension of the debt ceiling. One member of the leadership team says he’s “increasingly optimistic” that when the bill comes to the floor in the coming days, it’ll have significant Republican support. The ease of passage, he adds, can mostly be credited to Paul Ryan, the budget committee chairman, who has played a major, but low-key role in the GOP’s internal deliberations.
For weeks, instead of getting heavily involved in the shutdown talks, Ryan has worked on the edges, focusing on Ways and Means Committee meetings and floor huddles. During these sessions, he has urged his colleagues to support his push for broader fiscal talks, even if they were uncomfortable with tabling parts of their Obamacare agenda. Initially, it wasn’t an easy sell, but eventually many conservatives began to buy in. They didn’t like Ryan’s pitch, which asked them to lower certain expectations during divided government, but they slowly agreed with him that their dug-in position was unlikely to yield much.
By earlier this week, Ryan’s allies tell me a group of nearly 150 House Republicans had confided to Ryan or the leadership that they were coming around on the debt ceiling; if he’d lead talks on tax reform and entitlement reform, they’d give him their blessing. After weeks of seeing a debt-ceiling standoff as the only “conservative option,” Ryan had quietly ushered them away from that strategy and toward a longer endgame. His Wall Street Journal op-ed gave his cause even more momentum.
That factor was an important one this morning when Speaker John Boehner unveiled his plan for a six-week extension. Ryan’s dogged, behind-the-scenes efforts, plus a shift by conservative groups to fight chiefly on the continuing resolution, created an atmosphere of acceptance for Boehner’s proposal. Ryan had made Boehner’s plan palatable, days before it was floated.