Where Is Paul Ryan?

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Guess who's been playing the Quiet Man as House Republicans battle with Democrats -- and each other -- over the looming debt-ceiling and deficit deadlines? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, supposedly the Republican Party's Mr. Fiscal Economics.

Some measure will have to be passed by Oct. 1, when the current budget expires, to avoid a government shutdown. And the congressional recess slated to start Sept. 23 may have to be postponed as Republicans struggle to find a solution.

Ryan has been virtually silent as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other leading Republicans try to fashion a measure that could win enough votes to pass the House -- and satisfy the Tea Party wing, which is demanding that any deal include the defunding of President Barack Obama's health-care law, a condition that House leadership knows won't fly in the Senate.

When Cantor offered his latest proposal to delay Obamacare funding for one year, Ryan replied, according to the National Review: "I just heard about it."

There are several theories as to why the articulate and forceful Wisconsin lawmaker, who has been the Republican leader on economic and fiscal issues (he also was Mitt Romney's running mate in last year's presidential election), has stayed on the sidelines. One reason may be that he realizes Republicans have put themselves in a box with their unreasonable demands. Another reason may be that Ryan already has antagonized some of the party's right-wing elements with his embrace of comprehensive immigration reform and isn't eager to cause any further problems with the base.

Ryan did come out against Obama's request for authority to retaliate against Syria for using chemical weapons, but he put out a statement on Sept. 11, a day after the president told Congress to postpone any action until after a diplomatic effort was tried.

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To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net