Budget Drama: Paul Ryan Subtly Calls Out Tea Party Republicans

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., walk past the Senate chamber on their way to a press conference to announce a bipartisan budget deal on Tuesday evening. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., walk past the Senate chamber on their way to a press conference to announce a bipartisan budget deal on Tuesday evening. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

Rep. Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee chairman and potential 2016 presidential nominee, stood Monday evening in an unfamiliar place: a briefing room near the Senate chamber. As he did, he did something unfamiliar for establishment Republicans: He called out the tea party.

Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., appeared Tuesday evening to finally unveil a compromise budget resolution that, if adopted by both chambers, would provide $63 billion in sequestration relief in 2014 and 2015. For the Pentagon, the 2014 relief would total about $22.5 billion, to be followed by $9 billion in 2015.

But final passage is not a done deal. The House, which is leaving for the holidays on Friday morning, is expected to take up the resolution Thursday or Friday. But if enough conservative Republicans join with Democrats irked by its exclusion of unemployment benefits, the Ryan-Murray deal could die.

And that would be a blow to the defense sector, which is slated to take on most of the remaining 2014 sequestration cuts. That’s why a few subtle — but sharp — messages Ryan delivered Tuesday loom so large.

Asked if House conservative GOP members have signaled privately their support for the deal he struck with Murray, Ryan began with a sales pitch:

“I think conservatives should vote for it. I expect we’re going to have a healthy vote in the House Republican Caucus. I think we will pass this through the House.

But then he threw an elbow. Well, what amounts to an elbow from Paul Ryan:

“I have every reason to expect great support from our caucus, because we are keeping our principles. The key here is, nobody had to sacrifice their core principles. Our principles are don’t raise taxes, reduce the deficit.”

“So what we are doing here is providing for some sequester relief for 2014 and for 2015. And we’re paying for that with more permanent reforms on the autopilot side of the spending ledger in excess of the sequester relief which results in any of deficit reduction. That to me is a good deal.”

That came a few minutes after delivered delivered a civics lesson. One need not parse his words too much to realize his audience was, in large part, likely uber-conservative members of his own caucus:

“The House budget reflects our ultimate goals. It balances the budget within 10 years. It pays off the debt, but I realize that that is not going to pass in this divided government. I see this agreement as a step in the right direction.

“In divided government, you don’t always get what you want. That said, we still can make progress toward our goals. I see this agreement as that kind of progress, as a step in the right direction. Instead of the arbitrary cuts, we make smart, targeted reforms. We eliminate waste. We stop sending checks to criminals. We cut corporate welfare. We reform some mandatory programs, and we start to make real reforms to these autopilot programs that are the drivers of our debt in the first place.”

But wait, there’s more. Ryan sent another message to the tea party portion of his caucus ahead of a vote on the bipartisan budget deal: You’re not always going to get what you want.

“We also have a lot of concerned members about Defense. The next hit from this sequester was going to hit solely on the military. Starting in January. A lot of our members were concerned about that.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett
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