Paul Ryan's record: huge role in debt debate but few legislative wins
Rep. Paul Ryan's grasp of federal spending has given him an outsized role in defining the GOP position on deficits and debt, but he has a lower profile in driving the bipartisan compromises needed to pass laws.
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While Ryan is deeply involved in the House GOP legislative strategy, only two bills that Ryan has personally authored have been signed into law – one renaming a post office, the other changing the way arrows (think bow and arrow) are handled with excise tax. He has cosponsored nearly 1,000 bills.Skip to next paragraph
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Democrats expect to gain a political edge in November by tying Romney and congressional Republicans to Ryan's controversial budget provisions such as reshaping Medicare and cutting social programs. Ryan's actual voting record, meanwhile, puts him squarely in the middle of the House GOP. In fact, Ryan broke with his party on two key votes, siding with Democrats to bail out Wall Street and the auto industry in 2008.
Compared with his 243 House GOP colleagues, Ryan is in the less conservative half of the caucus: The National Journal ranks him as the 150th most conservative legislator.
When compared with previous vice presidential picks, however, Ryan’s overall voting record is the farthest from the ideological center of any vice presidential candidate from Congress since 1900, according to an analysis by Nate Silver of The New York Times’ 538 blog.
Ryan has been a stalwart vote for anti-abortion issues, lending his sponsorship of so-called “personhood” legislation that would define life as beginning at conception.
Such legislation would render some forms of abortion and contraception as tantamount to murder, and it has been a flashpoint for culture-war politics in several state legislatures. He has cast “aye” votes for legislation defunding Planned Parenthood and a branch of the Health and Human Services Department that provides family planning services to low-income Americans.
On gay rights, Ryan’s record is mixed. He voted for a measure that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but he has been a stalwart supporter of legislation in Wisconsin and in Washington to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Even so, Ryan has, on at least two occasions, cast votes fraught with political peril in voting for bills that the GOP’s tea party wing loves to hate: rescue packages (to their foes, bailouts) for the auto and financial industries.
The Wall Street rescue, formally the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), shows that when the stakes are high enough, Ryan has been willing to go against his party.
“We worked with our colleagues on the other side to make this a better bill,” Ryan said on the House floor during the 2008 TARP debate. “Why did we do all of this? This Wall Street crisis is quickly becoming a Main Street crisis.... This bill offends my principles, but I’m going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles, in order to preserve this free enterprise system.”
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