What Is Paul Ryan's Role During the Fiscal Cliff Negotiations?


The aide said members, especially freshmen who look to Ryan for counsel, want reassurance before they sign on to a deal. "Are these the principals and values we've been standing by for the last two years?" members wonder, noting many of Ryan's goals including "real tax reform, getting spending under control, most of the House Republican conference have the same goal."

Boehner spokesperson Brendan Buck, who also worked for the Romney/Ryan campaign, said Ryan is a "valued part of those conversations that we have every day."

"He brings a perspective that is incredibly important and leadership that is incredibly important and we are going to continue to use his expertise as we move along and try to see where this is headed," Buck said.

The second Ryan aide described his boss's role as a "very good go-between the leadership, the whips, and the rank-and-file congressmen."

"It's the role he's played for years, but it's a little more pronounced now after the campaign," the Ryan aide said. "The members have respect for the work Paul did to advance the conservative principals over the last few years."

When asked if Ryan wanted more of a public role coming off such a high profile in the campaign, the aide said, "He's happy fighting for the best deal possible." His view has always been, added the aide, "How can I carve out the role that help Republicans get to a point where they are getting what they want?"

The aide acknowledged there has been "public consternation" about Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge, which Ryan signed, but for Ryan he "doesn't feel like his is a promise to Grover Norquist, it is promise he made to his constituents."

It's obvious that through this counsel and his high profile, Ryan would bring votes for (or against) an eventual deal with him. The same Ryan aide said "the goal is to keep … encouraging the White House that they need to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and the elephant in the room is spending and mainly spending on entitlements."

The aide said the goal is the "best deal possible" and they know that may mean holding off on important issues to Ryan, like entitlement reform as long as any deal "keep(s) the options open for a big ticket proposal. Problems aren't getting smaller, there's always going to be an attitude and an appetite to reform these issues."

And while Ryan is home with his family in Janesville, Wisconsin for a five day legislative break the aide says he is "constantly" on both e mail and the phone with "constant communication between the leadership committee and Ryan," or Ryan and "members who want to pick his brain about x,y,z."

A Republican strategist who worked on the Santorum 2012 campaign, Matt Beynon, acknowledges that the position Ryan finds himself in is a "tough spot."

"I think 2016 feeds into it," Beynon who now heads up Madison Strategic Ventures said about Ryan, but added other members who face re-election as well face a tough decision on possibly caving on taxes or going over the cliff.

"Members of Congress who are in a position to take a vote on a resolution for the fiscal cliff, they are in the position they need to stand firm on their principals on, How do we raise revenues without raising tax rates and as conservatives we believe we increase revenues by growing the economy, not raising rates," Beynon said. "These folks are in a tricky position. They have a choice. Do they want to be leaders in coming to that resolution or will they be forced to take a vote that may not align with their conservative principals?"

The House of Representatives is back in session Tuesday and that's when Ryan will continue his in-person wheeling and dealing, as well as some much-needed counsel for his GOP colleagues.

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