Details of the “Ryan plan” – a major belt-tightening that could impact many aspects of public and private life – became the object of praise among fiscal conservatives and derision by more liberal critics and even a few Republicans. (Remember Newt Gingrich’s comment about “right-wing social engineering?”)
But as a veteran of House debates and law-making, Mr. Ryan also has a track record on other important issues. Here are some of the most important.
Abortion: Ryan voted to ban federal health coverage that includes abortion, opposes allowing human embryonic stem cell research, voted to make it a federal crime to harm a fetus while committing other crimes, and opposes so-called “partial-birth” abortions.
In a 2009 column in a Wisconsin newspaper, Ryan wrote: “Personally, I believe that life begins at conception, and it is for that reason that I feel we need to protect that life as we would protect other children.”
Anti-abortion activists are delighted with Romney’s choice of Ryan, whose Roman Catholic faith strongly guides his position on the issue – one that has earned him a 100 percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee.
“By selecting Congressman Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Governor Romney demonstrates his commitment to protecting American women and unborn children,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List said in her endorsement.
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Immigration: Ryan calls for comprehensive immigration reform, including “strong border security provisions, an enforceable guest worker program, a secure employee verification system, and a system that does not reward illegal behavior, but provides equitable treatment for all immigrants.”
“I understand the points that DREAM Act supporters have raised,” he says, but adds that “it would be a serious mistake to pursue piecemeal reforms like the DREAM Act without first putting in place these fundamental components of immigration reform.”
While Ryan’s position may be seen as less harsh than some other Republican lawmakers and presidential hopefuls – during the GOP debates, Romney called for “self-deportation” – it may not help the Republican ticket with Latino voters.
“Paul Ryan voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 and voted for the infamous Sensenbrenner bill in 2005, which would have turned undocumented workers and anyone who helped them – including their priests and pastors – into felons,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform organization America’s Voice.
“For those holding out hope that the VP selection would represent an indication that Romney and the Republicans are ready to start improving their immigration stance – and to start repairing their brand image among Latino voters in the process – today’s selection of Paul Ryan is a troubling reinforcement of the Republican immigration status quo,” Mr. Sharry said in a statement Saturday.
Another position likely to rankle many in a key part of the Latino community: Ryan opposes the trade embargo on Cuba.
Gay rights: Ryan has voted to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and his general attitude here indicates compassion toward individuals. But he’s also voted against ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the US military and for the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
“I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and I have heard from many of the people I represent who are concerned about activist judges abusing their power and rewriting our society’s definition of marriage,” Ryan said. “I had hoped that this amendment wouldn’t be necessary, but increasingly it appears that laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act will not be sufficient to protect marriage from certain courts that distort state and federal constitutional law.”
“Marriage is not simply a legal arrangement between individuals,” he has said. “The institution of marriage is an integral part of our civil society and its significance goes well beyond eligibility for benefits and similar considerations. Its future should not be left to a few overreaching judges or local officials to decide. That’s why I support this effort to amend our Constitution to protect marriage.”
Foreign policy and national security: Although he’s a veteran lawmaker, Ryan has little experience in this area. From what’s known so far – he’s strong on Israel, supports (although not enthusiastically) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has helped fatten the Pentagon’s budget at a time when he wants to trim most other programs – he appears to be what Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, calls “just a generic Republican on foreign policy.”
Romney has no foreign policy or national security experience either. (Nor, for that matter, did Barack Obama when he first ran for the presidency.) But Vice President Joe Biden – who Ryan will face in debate – has decades of experience in an area that made him a Senate expert.
"Ryan will have to be tutored in this subject prior to his debate with Biden,” Professor Sabato told Reuters. “Biden will be loaded for bear in his own area.”
Environment: Ryan received a meager 3 percent rating on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard for 2011 and a 20 percent rating for all years.
Over the years, he’s voted to speed up forest thinning, for deauthorizing critical habitat for endangered species, against AMTRAK improvements and the “cash for clunkers” program getting gas hogs and polluters off the road, and against protecting free-roaming horses and burros. He’s also voted to eliminate EPA limits on greenhouse gases and for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Although Ryan’s weapon of choice for deer hunting in Wisconsin is a bow and arrow, he has earned an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
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