Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s fellow Republicans met him with fanfare when he made his first appearance on Capitol Hill since his selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate on Aug. 11.
“It’s great to be here, it’s great to be back,” Ryan told reporters yesterday as Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, escorted him to the House floor after an informal meeting of Republicans in Boehner’s office.
“I miss them,” Ryan said of his Republican colleagues, who gave him a standing ovation when he entered the House chamber. Ryan was swarmed by reporters as he entered and exited.
Boehner, asked how he liked playing second fiddle to Ryan, joked that it was “just fine.”
Ryan, a Wisconsin lawmaker and House Budget Committee chairman, returned to Washington yesterday to vote for a stopgap spending measure that funds the government at levels set forth in the 2011 deficit-reduction agreement. The measure, which was adopted 329-91, provides funds at a higher level than Ryan called for in his budget plan, which the House passed in March.
Already a hero of the Tea Party movement, Ryan returned to Capitol Hill with celebrity status. Republicans who attended the informal gathering in Boehner’s office said his colleagues, some of whom had served with Ryan for years, lined up to have their pictures taken with him.
Ohio Representative Jean Schmidt said Ryan made small talk with members, trading stories about their families.
“He’s still Paul,” Schmidt said. For House Republicans, Ryan’s newly conferred status is “not strange, it’s refreshing,” she said.
“It’s exciting for members of the House to have a person like that on the campaign,” Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy told reporters.
Ryan’s meeting with his colleagues was arranged after he called Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, McCarthy said.
Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz said Ryan was talking to members about life on the campaign trail. Chaffetz said he gave the vice presidential nominee some advice of his own: “Get out of here. Go back to Ohio.”
Republicans in competitive contests pushed aside Democrats’ assertions that that their support for Ryan’s budget proposal, particularly for converting Medicare to a voucher program for future seniors, will be a liability in their campaigns.
“Medicare has been important from the start, and I’ve been talking about these issues in the context of our path to prosperity budget even since the 2010 election,” said Representative Nan Hayworth, a New York Republican. “I have a tremendously positive relationship with our seniors because they know we’re fighting to save Medicare.”
Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said he joked with Ryan, famously a fitness buff, that he needed to “get back to the gym.” Flake said he hopes Ryan will make another trip to Arizona to support his Senate race.
“We’ll take him whenever we can get him,” Flake said.
Democrats Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Charlie Rangel of New York were among the House lawmakers who had conversations with Ryan at the back of the chamber.
“It was all very congenial,” Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, told reporters.
Another Democrat, California Representative Anna Eshoo, said she applauded Ryan when he entered the chamber because “he’s our colleague.”
“There is a great institutional pride about who enters those doors and who works in the chaos known as the U.S. House of Representatives,” Eshoo said.