Congressman Ryan, a member of the president’s bipartisan debt commission and soon to be House Budget Committee chairman, was asked if President Obama and his administration share the view of some on the left that the talk about a federal debt crisis is overblown.
“I don’t know, they don’t talk to us,” said Ryan, speaking to reporters at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters Thursday. “So I don’t know what they think. I’ve talked to the president and [Treasury Secretary] Tim Geithner since November and that’s the only person I’ve talked to.”
Still, there has been at least some communication between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans since Mr. Obama took office early last year. Ryan described regular contact with various figures who have all now left the White House or will leave soon, including former budget director Peter Orszag, former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and top economic adviser Larry Summers, who leaves at the end of the year.
Some of those relationships were formed during their days together on the Hill.
“We knew Orszag pretty well,” because he had previously been head of the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan said. “And we knew Rahm because he served with us. And I was on [the House] Ways and Means [Committee] with Rahm. And we talked to Larry [Summers] every now and then.... But those guys are gone.”
Ryan said he’s trying to set up a dinner with the new budget director, Jack Lew.
“We called over there last week to see if we can get dinner and get to know him a little bit,” Ryan said. “I’d like to get to know him like I knew Orszag. I think it’s helpful to know each other. But I don’t know what they’re thinking, I really don’t.”
Ryan said the low level of communication in the current, soon-to-be departing Congress wasn’t a “mean thing.” It was that “they didn’t need us,” Ryan added, referring to the Democrats’ large majorities in both houses. “They didn’t want us in the last session. So they didn’t talk to us.”