Where in the World Is Paul Ryan?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Dec. 14 2012 1:16 PM

Where in the World Is Paul Ryan?

For the moment he is irrelevant. That will not last.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds his weekly news briefing.
Paul Ryan has largely sat on the sidelines since the Novemeber election. Here, Ryan campaigns in Ohio in October with Mitt Romney

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Right after the 2012 election, when Republicans trudged glumly back to Washington, Speaker of the House John Boehner found two jobs for Paul Ryan. By Ryan’s request, he would stay on as chairman of the Budget Committee—he’d be the only chairman holding on after his six-year term at the top of a committee had ended. By necessity, he would also join a working group to help Boehner negotiate a way around the “fiscal cliff.” Ryan would partner with Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp and Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton in crafting proposals, strategizing, and calculating. If the White House wanted to talk to Ryan, congressional liaison Rob Nabors knew where to find him.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

It’s been a month. While the White House has been talking to Boehner, Ryan hasn’t been so busy. The B-team of Camp, Ryan, and Upton has stayed on the bench. Ryan hasn’t recently met or talked to key negotiators. Ryan’s big moment in the talks, so far, came with the three-page offer that House Republicans sent the president on Dec. 3. According to National Review, Ryan “worked with Boehner to craft” the document. They spent two pages explaining how proud they were of Ryan’s budgets and two paragraphs offering $800 billion of unspecified revenue and $1.2 trillion of unspecified cuts. And the White House rejected that at the speed of Twitter.

Paul Ryan is irrelevant, but that can’t last. No one in modern times has lost a national election and returned to such a powerful role in Congress. John Kerry’s consolation prize was minority status in the Senate. After his loss, George McGovern was so marginalized that he considered moving to England.


The chairman of the House Budget Committee can’t be marginalized. For two years, Ryan was the de facto intellectual leader of the GOP, introducing and passing spending plans that nearly every Republican supported. He’s got two more years of that on the calendar, and his rank-and-file members are thrilled. “The American people are looking to him for ideas,” Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told me last month. Gardner and other freshman fans of Ryan believe that the vice-presidential campaign, even if a loss, still helped him; without that, Americans “might not have known who he was.”

Ryan’s absence from the “cliff” debate has actually helped his clout—among Republicans. They resent their current position. They passed their budgets (Ryan’s budgets). The media doesn’t seem to take that seriously. Obama’s Democrats haven’t pushed a budget through since 2009; the media doesn’t care.

“Our perspective is, ‘Yes, we think our budget is the way forward,’ ” says Rep. Sean Duffy, a freshman from northwestern Wisconsin and a Ryan stalwart. “The president rejected it. There was an effort to be reasonable and to meet the concerns he had, so we came off the budget a little, but the president needs to lead.”

That’s the polite version of the sentiment. In the Senate, utterly marginalized by the Boehner-Obama talks, Republicans resent that the “cliff” negotiation is so secretive. In a real budget debate, says Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, “You have hearings on it. You have witnesses. You have a debate about what you want, then you have mark-up. That’s the way this should work ... as opposed to seeing on the news: Do Speaker Boehner and President Obama get along? Is it going to be $1 for $2? For $3? That’s drivel. That’s meaningless.”



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 5:19 PM Washington’s Acting Roles
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.