Representative Paul Ryan was a pivotal figure in killing the 2010 Bowles-Simpson agreement, which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney now holds out as a model for putting America’s fiscal house in order.
The 18-member panel needed 14 votes to send a 10-year plan to trim the debt to Congress for a vote. As his party’s then- ranking member on the House Budget Committee, Ryan led a bloc of three House Republicans who denied the additional votes needed.
All three Senate Republicans on the panel backed the plan and one of them, former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, said he believes the House Republicans who rejected it were beholden to an argument by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquistthat the measure was tantamount to a tax increase.
“All of the House Republicans were disproportionately affected by the Norquist group on the issue of tax reform,” said Gregg, now a senior adviser at New Mountain Capital LLC. Ryan “clearly was the leader” of House Republicans in setting the terms of a grand debt bargain, said Andy Stern, a panel member and Democrat.
Ryan, now Republican Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, was joined by Representatives David Camp of Michigan, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and four Democrats in opposing a blueprint that would have reduced the federal debt by $3.8 trillion through a three-to-one mix of spending cuts and tax revenue increases. Ryan’s support would have likely drawn votes from Camp and possibly Hensarling and made it all but impossible for the president to reject a plan created by his own self- appointed commission.
The Romney campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Instead, the efforts by the commission, comprised of 12 members of Congress and six outside officials, set the stage for a series of failed attempts over the next year by the White House and Congress to reach a bipartisan deal to address the debt, including an ill-fated try late last year by a congressional supercommittee that ended in deadloc
Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat on the panel who opposed the plan because of cuts in Social Security benefits, said she believes Ryan became less inclined to compromise following the November 2010 election that had handed Republicans control of the next U.S. House session and put him in line to advance his plan to overhaul Medicare as the new House Budget Committee chairman.
“As his perception of the politics became clearer, I don’t think he felt any need to go with anything less than he would propose,” she said.
See the full report on Ryan and the deficit commission at Bloomberg.com.