Paul Ryan: No Rubber Stamp Debt Ceiling Increase

Many or even most Congressmen are conscientious after a fashion. However, the most important skill set for re-election is not wonky immersion in policy details, but the ability to walk into a crowded room and create an immediate rapport with constituents. While some politicians nurture core beliefs or at least dispositions, they often rely on aides and especially a few fellow Congressmen who have the aptitude and the seriousness to study policies in detail. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), now Chair of the House Budget Committee, is one of the followed Congressmen.

This afternoon, Paul Gigot, Chief of the Editorial Board of the the Wall Street Journal interviewed Congressman Ryan at the National Press Club in a forum sponsored by and the Manhattan Institute

The reader can obtain their own impression of the exchange by viewing the interview on C-SPAN. However, it was clear that Representative Ryan believes that substantive budget discipline can only be obtained if President Obama compromises. This is in not likely to happen. Hence, much of the work of this Congress will be to set the stage for Americans to make a choice in 2012.

The first real test between the President and Congress will occur when the debt ceiling has to be increased this spring. While it is clear that no one wants the US to default on its debt, Ryan says that Congress will not be a “rubber stamp.’’ There will not be a naked debt ceiling increase bill. Any bill that increases the debt ceiling will include as many spending concessions as Congress is able to negotiate

Gigot reminded Ryan of the fact the government shuthown in 1995 backfired on the Republican Congress and in large measure guaranteed the election of President Bill Clinto. Doesn’t this mean that Congress is likely to blink in any budget showdown. Perhaps the one bit of news this afternoon, is that Ryan suggested that Congress willl pass a debt ceiling increase bill with budget cuts and try to arrange it so that President Obama will either have to sign the ceiling increase or he will shut down the government. Unlike 1995, Ryan believes people understand that budget discipline is needed now to forestall greater austerity in the future as the Baby Boob generation retires.

If experience ins any lesson, Ryan and Congress will not be able to phrase the budget question to their benefit. The press will be happy to make it appear that it is Congress that is holding the government hostage. The best the Republican Congress can hope for is to make it clear that Obama refuses to cut the budget.

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