WASHINGTON -- In its profile of newly minted, presumptive vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan Monday morning, The New York Times reported a new and potentially telling anecdote from the height of last summer's debate over raising the debt ceiling.
Ryan, the paper said, urged his own party's leadership to scuttle a grand bargain with President Barack Obama, in part out of concern that a deal may result in a second term for Obama.
Mr. Ryan’s enormous influence was apparent last summer when Representative Eric Cantor, the second most powerful House Republican, told Mr. Obama during negotiations over an attempted bipartisan “grand bargain” that Mr. Ryan disliked its policy and was concerned that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election, according to a Democrat and a Republican who were briefed on the conversation.(Emphasis ours)
The Times went on to note that "an official in Mr. Cantor’s office disputed the characterization, and a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, who was also there, said he 'has no recollection of such a discussion.'"
So, who's right?
The answer, according to two Republican sources who witnessed the debt ceiling negotiations, is somewhere in the middle. Ryan, they acknowledged, did raise concerns about the political fallout of Obama and Boehner reaching a bargain that would see $800 billion to $1 trillion in revenues exchanged for spending cuts and changes to Social Security and Medicare. But that was the least pressing of Ryan's three main concerns.
"Boehner was negotiating with Obama. Ryan had gone to Cantor and to Boehner saying he doesn't support the policy, he doesn't think it could be sold to the conference, and, three, he thought it would guarantee the [president's] reelection," said a GOP aide who spoke anonymously in order to discuss private deliberations.
"There were certain people ... who thought the pursuit of the grand bargain was a useless pursuit because it could never pass anyway," the aide added. "Ryan was one of them. Ryan is opposed to tax increases. He's a policy guy. His primary concern was with the deal being constructed. And he went to Cantor and Boehner personally a few days [after the grand bargain was reported] and made the case that it was a bad decision all around. His final point was that the politics were bad too."
A second senior Republican congressional aide with knowledge of the debt ceiling negotiations made a similar point, while downplaying the overall significance of Ryan's political argument.
"So politics wasn’t the primary motivation (contra The Times), and in fact he had a policy disagreement with taxes. Breaking news alert. Sounds like The Times got a little out ahead of themselves."
In a separate exchange with the Huffington Post, Cantor's office firmly denied that he opposed the debt ceiling deal because of the political implications it would have for the president. As for Ryan's office, a spokesman for the Wisconsin congressman referred questions to the Romney campaign. The Romney campaign did not return a request for comment.
The anecdote would hardly put Ryan in trouble with conservatives. Many wanted nothing to do with the grand bargain both out of policy and electoral concerns. And the idea that political considerations entered into the debt-ceiling deliberations should be shocking to no one, save the few remaining starry-eyed idealists.
But it still doesn't help the current sale of Ryan as someone willing to shelve ideological purity for common good. That image is part of what the Romney campaign has tried to promote during the early days of the Ryan vice president announcement by pointing to, among other things, his collaboration with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Medicare reform.
Ryan was mostly sidelined during the debt ceiling debates. In his public statements, he opposed the "grand bargain" on grounds that there were not enough spending cuts in exchange for revenue increases and that the reforms to entitlements wouldn't actually affect their long-term solvency.
"We never saw a paper from the White House on this by the way," Ryan said on Morning Joe in late July. "But the point is, the kinds of things they were talking about in entitlements were not their structural reforms that actually fix these problems and make them permanently solvent and that get our debt under control. They do take money from those programs and they buy you temporary relief. They would buy you a few years. They weren't the kinds of structural reforms that actually save Medicare, make Medicaid solvent, prevent the bankruptcy of Social Security. They weren't the real structural reforms. They were kind of the nickel-and-dime stuff that saves money, but don't fix the problem."
When the deal fell apart and Boehner and the president negotiated a separate bill to cut trillions in spending, both immediately and through sequestration, Ryan offered his support.
The exact nature of the role Ryan played behind the scenes will be fleshed out in the next month or so. One of the GOP sources quoted in this article noted that the Washington Post's Bob Woodward is writing a book on the debt ceiling negotiations and relayed that Ryan "sat down with him." The book is set to be released this fall, before the election.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated Democratic Senator Ron Wyden's state and party affiliation.
Nuts Bring Buckets of Same
Just in case anyone forgot that the House Judiciary Committee ACORN hearing was a House Judiciary Committee hearing about ACORN, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/02/acorn-hearing-a-barrel-of_n_376882.html">Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) helpfully brought a bucket of acorns</a> to the House Judiciary Committee. Also that day, colleague Lamar Smith praising the "turnout so early in the day" at 2:30pm, and Louie Gohmert offering up the malaprop: “From one acorn, many nuts can grow.” Like, say, Peter King.
Hello Kitty, Hello Revolving Debt
Credit cards. Were it not for them, we would have to save up money in order to buy things. But do some credit cards take it too far, marketing to the youths? Byron Dorgan thought so when he saw the Hello Kitty Platinum VISA. "Does it seem to you like they’re targeting that 10-year-old, the 14-year-old." Ha! He should see the <a href="http://www.shopinprivate.com/hello-kitty-pink-guilty.html">Hello Kitty vibrator</a>.
"I'll See Your Baby, And Raise You Two Tweens"
Last time out, we made mention of Representative John Shadegg's (R-Ariz.) attempt to wield a baby in order to make a point about how terrible health care reform was. We neglected to mention that Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.) took it a step further, and attempted to bring two young children to make his own points about health care (5:25 in video), at which point the House was officially barred from trafficking in human props any further.
John Thune's Stackin' Dollars
How much is too much stimulus? When it allows representatives to make junior high math analogies based on topography and astronomy, maybe. Here, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) makes some stupid pictures of dollar stacks that extend into the sky, to the celestial firmament itself. “If you took 100 dollar bills, Mr. President," Thune said, "and stacked them on top of each other you would have a stack that goes 689 miles high.” He added, "In other words, if you took the 100 dollar bills and not stacked them on top of each other, but wrapped them side-by-side all around the earth… If you could believe this, it’d go around the earth almost 39 times." So, we cannot stimulate the economy, because of science! (1:15 in clip)
Gettin' High On Your Own Supply (Of A Substance That Does Not Get You High)
Representative Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) wasn't having any of that whole "regulating tobacco" stuff. Why? Because it's "not the nicotine that kills, it's the smoke!" So, he argued, why don't we regulate lettuce, to keep people from smoking lettuce? Wouldn't that prevent a "pandemic" of cancers? This would have been a good point, were it not for the non-existence of either a massive industry geared toward curing lettuce and rolling it into cigarettes, or a target market of consumers who were even remotely interested in smoking lettuce. BUT YEAH OTHER THAT ALL THAT STUFF (and the fact that nicotine is addictive) STEVE BUYER IS A GENIUS.
And Now, A Poem From Ted Poe
From Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas): <i>It came on two pages, It has withstood the ages. / The word "shall,'' is only 10 times mentioned, But enough to get one's attention. / No taxes did this law raise, To this day it continues to create much praise; / Two great religions does it claim, The "Law of the Ten Commandments'' is its name. / A current writing, 1,990 pages long, Has a socialist philosophy that is all wrong; / Difficult for the people to understand, And troubling what big government doth demand. / Over 3,445 "shalls'' it does loudly shout, New massive taxes does it proudly tout; / Written in secret by the bureaucrats, For exclusive use of the taxacrats. / The Congressional bill called "Health Care Reform," Is illusionary, the authors are still ill-informed; / Government ought not take over America's health biz. / And that's just the way it is."</i> And so, America, this is why you should have to die of easily treated medical conditions.
And Now, An Even Dumber Poem, From Roland Burris
From the junior senator from Illinois: <i>"It was the night before Christmas, and all through the Senate / The right held up our health care bill, no matter what was in it / The people had voted a mandated reform / But Republicans blew off the gathering storm / We'll clog up the Senate, they cried with a grin / And in the midterm elections, we'll get voted in / They knew regular folks needed help right this second / But fundraisers, lobbyists and politics beckoned / So try as they might, Democrats could not win / Because the majority was simply too thin / Then across every state there rose such a clatter / The whole senate rushed out to see what was the matter / All sprang up from their desk and ran from the floor / Straight through the cloakroom and right out the door."</i> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/22/burris-backs-reform-with_n_400456.html">There's more</a>, but you will probably want to shoot yourself in the face after you read it.
Chuck Grassley Goes All Aggro On The Speaker Box
For some reason, in the course of discussing fuel efficiency standards, Senator Chuck Grassley decided he should drive his point home by shouting out Ashton Kutcher and his movie, "Dude, Where's My Car." Prior to this, Grassley went on an <a href="http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Speech_by_GOP_Senator_references_stoner_0924.html">extended monologue</a> about Pink Floyd's <i>Dark Side of the Moon</i> album and the shards of a broken prism and the "multishades" of light. Just straight up tripping balls, in the well of the Senate. Anyway, as you now know, this TOTALLY fixed fuel efficiency standards!
Sam Brownback Will Save Your Inanimate Genetic Material
Who's looking out for your precious bodily fluids? Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, that's who. And he's enlisted the help of a young girl, named Hannah, who has the power of talking to human embryos! "<a href="http://thinkprogress.org/2006/07/18/brownback-embryo/">Are you going to kill me?</a>" the embryos asked Hannah, who immediately scrawled a picture of this conversation on a giant piece of posterboard, so that Sam Brownback could stop people from killing the stem cells. And then Sam Brownback went on to support a bunch of wars in the Middle East!
The Most Important Prop Of All
James Inhofe (R-Batshit) hates him some gay marriage, and the gays in general. And to make his point, he carries around with him The Most Important Prop in America: a picture of his family. "As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship." Ha! THAT HE KNOWS OF!