Paul Ryan's Defining Vote

Toughen up.

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Markets and voters who prefer a solvent U.S. government have cause to rejoice. The White House and a bipartisan group of leaders from both houses of Congress have reached a deal to avoid a default on the nation's debt, extend borrowing authority until a new president is in office in March 2017 and set spending levels for a two-year budget.

This is the “clean barn” that Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is exiting the Capitol after repeated clashes with the right wing of the Republican conference, promised to leave his successor. The agreement would lift spending caps by $80 billion, evenly divided between defense and domestic discretionary programs. Congressional appropriators would then have to fill in the details before the current spending agreement runs out on Dec. 11.

Presuming all 188 House Democrats support the plan, Republicans will need to deliver at least 30 votes to give the deal a majority. It's important that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, set to be elected speaker Thursday, is among the ayes.

Under Boehner, the House has too often been home to brinkmanship that undermined the economy and extreme ideological posturing that upset efforts to reach national consensus. The deal on the table is a responsible plan to avert default and fund the government -- two basic obligations of legislators.

In the Senate, Republicans have joined with Democrats to isolate the divisive Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. In the House, however, Cruz's allies are poised to test the new speaker's willingness to pursue their brand of rigid ideology and reckless tactics. If Ryan fails to take a stand in support of the deal, his speakership will be compromised before it begins.

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