Las Vegas Sun

March 27, 2015

Currently: 60° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


Ryan sees path ahead for GOP

Another view?

View more of the Las Vegas Sun's opinion section:

Editorials - the Sun's viewpoint.

Columnists - local and syndicated writers.

Letters to the editor - readers' views.

Have your own opinion? Write a letter to the editor.

Paul Ryan is taking a different approach to life after a lost election than the last person who came up short in a campaign for vice president.

From election night through Inauguration Day, Ryan largely stayed below the media radar, taking some time off and then going back to his day job in Congress. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he worked behind the scenes during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, despite a newly raised national profile that others might have used to grandstand. In the end, he supported both the compromise to prevent a tax increase on more than 98 percent of Americans, and House Speaker John Boehner, though many conservatives hoped he’d challenge both.

And now, post-inauguration, what’s his watchword for President Barack Obama’s second term?


In a short, measured address to about 900 conservatives attending a summit sponsored by National Review last weekend in Washington, Ryan laid out a strategy for the next four years. There was a little bit of policy, but mostly he talked about how Republicans should responsibly handle being an opposition party in their dealings with the president — and one another.

“Sometimes we’ll have to reject the president’s proposals,” he said. “And sometimes we’ll have to make them better.”

Either way, Republicans will need to be focused on what’s good for the country, not the politics.

“The president will bait us,” Ryan said. “He’ll portray us as cruel and unyielding. Just the other day, he said Republicans had ‘suspicions’ about Social Security. He said we had ‘suspicions’ about feeding hungry children. ... Look, it’s the same trick he plays every time: Fight a straw man. Avoid honest debate. Win the argument by default. ...

“But we can’t get rattled. We won’t play the villain in his morality plays. We have to stay united. We have to show that — if given the chance — we can govern. We have better ideas.”

To go forward, Republicans will have to be smart — and prudent.

“Prudence is good judgment in the art of governing,” he said. “Abraham Lincoln called it ‘one of the cardinal virtues.’ And it’s our greatest obligation as public servants. We have to find the good in every situation — and choose the best means to achieve it. We have to make decisions anchored in reality.”

He cited Republican votes in favor of the fiscal-cliff deal as an example.

“Here’s how I saw it: On Jan. 1, a $4.4 trillion tax hike took effect,” he said. “The Senate voted overwhelmingly to prevent tax hikes for 98 percent of Americans. It made the lower tax rates permanent — something we couldn’t achieve when George W. Bush was in office. And President Obama got less revenue than the speaker offered in the first place. In short, there was no way we’d get a better deal.”

Conservatives can now use their divisions on that issue to attack one another, perhaps subjecting those who voted yes to primary challenges in 2014, or they can think strategically.

“Prudence demands mutual understanding — especially among friends,” Ryan said. “My colleagues and I sought the same end: We wanted a smaller, smarter government. We simply differed on the means. That’s the difficulty of governing. It shouldn’t be a cause for division.”

Ryan noted that James Madison, now known as the Father of the Constitution, didn’t get everything he wanted out of that convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Nevertheless, he accepted the compromises made and fought hard for ratification. As a result, his adversaries drafted James Monroe to run against him for Congress — “the 18th-century equivalent of ‘getting primaried,’” Ryan called it.

If Republicans are smart, and prudently manage their disagreements, they have an important role to play in the next four years, Ryan said: “to mitigate bad policy — and to advance good policy wherever we can.”

He expects House Republicans to offer plans on tax reform, protecting Medicare and Medicaid, and balancing the budget. Though here, too, he understands the reality of the situation.

“Democrats are unlikely to accept our proposals,” he said. “But we will lay the groundwork for future endeavors. So when reform is possible, we will be ready.”

In the meantime, despite understandable discouragement and tough political fights ahead, conservatives mustn’t give in to despair. They have to remain engaged, he said.

“Our country is worth the fight,” Ryan said. “With your help — and with a touch of prudence — we will win it.”

Kevin Ferris is assistant editor of the Editorial Page of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 5 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Rep Paul Ryan [R-Wis] is a smart man. He knows the Federal budget and can teach the President and his staff about the fundamentals and nuances of Appropriations' Law. I opine most of the GOP can because it is their forte. Americans have given President Obama a long honey moon. But, the end is near. President Obama, like all liberal progressives before him, talks a good game but can't deliver the fiscal goods. The GOP with people like Ryan, Rubio, and a host of others too many to name, can and will when the Dems fall flat on their faces and duck and cover.


  2. Jeff:

    Joan McCarter? Really? Senior Editor for Daily Kos! Not high on my list of Federal Budget and Appropriation Law experts. In fact, not on the that list at all. And probably never will be. Try again.


  3. Thanks for the article.

  4. Jeff, it's not up to the GOP. The PRESIDENT is supposed to submit a proposed budget that incorporates what is needed within what revenue is available. It is up the to ADMINISTRATION to first make the choices to CUT SPENDING and fund ESSENTIAL government programs at reasonable levels.

  5. Jeff:

    I have no doubt that she is all the things you claim except ONE: She is not a Federal Budget and Appropriations Law expert. As such, she cannot impugn Paul Ryan who is both.