House Budget: A Document Where Big Ideas Often Go to Die

Photograph by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan works with Republican members of the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington before introducing his "Path to Prosperity" debt-reduction plan.

“House Budget Committee Chairman” may sound like a top-tier power position to people outside the Beltway. Insiders know the committee as something much different: a place where nothing important happens very often.

However, Paul Ryan’s addition to the Republican presidential ticket has suddenly thrown the spotlight on the work of the Budget Committee. As chairman, Ryan was the architect of several wide-ranging budget proposals, creating a large record of his positions spanning the full breadth of the federal government.

Before his selection as Mitt Rommey’s running mate, Ryan’s position as the 5th Ranking Republican on the Ways & Means Committee — which plays a crucial role in creating legislation on taxes, trade and Medicare — was arguably as important as his Budget chairmanship.

The Budget Committee’s main product — the annual congressional budget resolution — is usually done with debate before summer arrives. The committee’s work for the rest of year consists mainly of holding little-watched hearings on fiscal and monetary policy.

Even if the House and Senate reach agreement on a budget resolution — an increasingly rare accomplishment — the document doesn’t have the force of law and never goes to the president for his signature. Instead, it’s a nonbinding blueprint for taxes and spending.

It’s a document where big ideas often go to die.

Ryan’s addition to the Republican ticket has breathed new life into his work on the Budget Committee. Robert Litan, director of research for Bloomberg Government, and Christopher Payne, a senior economic analyst for BGov, have explained in detail how Ryan’s record on the committee dramatically raises the stakes for the upcoming election.

“With his pick of U.S. Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney now agrees with President Barack Obama on at least one thing: this election is about big choices,” Litan and Payne write on

As vice president, Ryan would be in a far stronger position to turn the big ideas in his Budget Committee blueprints into actual policy.

And as the record of his Budget Committee work becomes clearer, Ryan’s new inside track to the White House has energized the bases of both political parties.


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