Our Views: Ryan does what he believes is best

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

 “In a divided government, you don’t get everything you want.”

—Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville

 When Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington announced a budget compromise Tuesday, critics quickly suggested the deal doomed Ryan’s presidential aspirations.

The agreement drew fire from conservative extremists, who pundits argued hold the key to Ryan’s future.

Hold on a minute. Sure, ideologues on both sides of the spectrum attacked the deal. Tea party conservatives complained the plan doesn’t do enough to reduce the deficit. House Speaker John Boehner shot back.

“I think they’re misleading their followers,” he said. “I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.”

Liberals who want even more spending also criticized the plan. However, it passed the House on Thursday, 332-94, with majorities of Republicans and Democrats approving it. Voting “no” was Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison. He argued the deal “abandons” 1.3 million Americans who won’t get unemployment benefits past 26 weeks.

Despite that concern, Democrats who control the Senate are expected to approve the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 this week. President Obama indicated he will sign it.

Our nation’s Founders crafted a government with checks and balances and a vision that compromise is best. In 2008, voters elected an inexperienced young senator named Barack Obama, believing his “hope and change” message would reverberate and he could unite partisans. That never happened. Obamacare, perhaps the most controversial bill ever passed, didn’t get a single Republican vote. Americans have endured gridlock that culminated a few months ago with a partial government shutdown and near federal default.

Given that backdrop, the deal Ryan and Murray struck is remarkable, almost unthinkable even a few weeks ago. Ryan and Murray began negotiating by agreeing that if either was forced to abandon core principles, talks would go nowhere. Ryan wouldn’t raise taxes. Murray wouldn’t budge on major entitlements.

The deal, Ryan says, “will reduce the deficit by $23 billion. It won’t raise taxes. And it will cut spending in a smarter way. It doesn’t go as far as I’d like. But it’s a firm step in the right direction.”

Murray hopes it rebuilds trust and serves as a foundation for more bipartisanship.

The bill provides $63 billion in sequester relief in exchange for $85 billion in savings elsewhere. Among them, says Ryan, are sensible reforms to retirement programs for federal employees and military personnel. Officials of the UW System praised the deal.

Americans, said Ryan, expect lawmakers to find common ground, to pay bills, to be accountable and to stop shutting down the government. Liberals might have to rethink the notion that Ryan is in the tea party’s pocket.

Ryan has never made his political future his top priority. Instead, he always said he would do whatever he believes is in the best interests of our country.

“He had credibility to begin with, but to be able to reach a balanced agreement that’s beneficial to the American people, it reflects well on Paul Ryan,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., told Reuters.

As Ryan suggests, lawmakers must take more steps to reduce deficit spending. Whatever his future holds, however, it makes sense that the quiet majority of Americans in the political center will praise rather than fault Ryan for this budget compromise.

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