Beyond the next few weeks of deal making, there is the question of what Ryan’s involvement in the fiscal cliff talks will mean for his political future. In the 2012 presidential primary, all the Republican White House contenders said they would oppose a hypothetical debt deal containing a 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases.
If he pursues a 2016 presidential bid, Ryan — who voted against the Simpson-Bowles commission’s recommendations in addition to declining to serve on the debt supercommittee — could well face a primary opponent who uses his involvement in crafting a deal against him, especially if it raises taxes.
Ryan’s office did not respond to requests for comment on his potential role in the fiscal talks. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a longtime ally of Ryan’s and a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said Ryan will be critical in crafting a deal with Democrats and in rounding up GOP support for any eventual compromise.
“Nobody knows these numbers better than Paul,” Price said. “And then in selling it not just to conservatives but in making sure that the negotiation is put in an honest light with the conference . . . [Paul Ryan] will have a big hand in that.”
Some Democrats say they see evidence that Ryan is intent on tacking rightward rather than on working the political middle.
“The fact that he comes off the campaign trail more committed to his way or no way does not put him in a position to reach compromise either within the Republican caucus or, even more importantly, with the Democrats,” said Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., who has worked with Ryan on the House Budget and Ways and Means committees. “It seems that so far, what he’s been doing has been reaching out to the right.”