House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is silent and offering no opinion on legislation currently being crafted in Washington, D.C., back rooms that would raise the debt ceiling and bind Congress to a multi-year budget deal.
Ryan, who is likely to become the next Speaker of the House, is boldly not taking any position on the forthcoming legislative package—a daring move for someone who is trying to win a House Speakership election.
“Senior White House officials and congressional leaders are nearing a deal to raise the debt limit and set the federal budget for the next two years, say sources familiar with the talks,” The Hill’s Alex Bolton reported on Monday.
The agreement is not yet final, as negotiators still need to settle a dispute over controversial policy riders, but congressional leaders hope to announce something Monday evening, according to a Senate source. The deal would cover the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. It would also raise the nation’s debt ceiling to March 2017, according to a congressional source.
Politico added that the big government package would increase spending by tens of billions of dollars.
“The ambitious accord, which is being negotiated by top House, Senate and White House officials, would boost defense and nondefense spending by $50 billion next year, and $30 billion the year after, split evenly between defense and non defense programs,” Politico’s Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett wrote on Monday. Negotiations are fluid, however, and specifics might change before legislation is filed.”
The Hill’s Bolton reported that negotiators for this deal include outgoing House Speaker John Boehner. Boehner is set to resign by the end of the week, so if Congress doesn’t vote on this package in the next few days—it’s highly unlikely the House could vote on this before the Speakership election on Thursday, though possible according to some sources—Ryan would, if elected as expected, need to figure out what to do with the deal.
“White House budget director Shaun Donovan and legislative affairs director Katie Beirne Fallon are hammering out the package with staff representing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.),” Bolton wrote.
Conveniently, for now, however, according to Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck, Ryan is not taking a position on the coming package.
“He’s not been involved,” Buck told Breitbart News when asked if Ryan supported the deal.
“To my knowledge, an agreement hasn’t even been reached,” Buck added when asked again.
Ryan might be able to avoid the fire for now, but this—budget deals and big picture fiscal negotiations—is supposed to be in his wheelhouse. It is these types of things—after all, the Ryan budgets launched him into the political stratosphere a few years ago—that were his biggest selling points to become Speaker of the House.
Of course, if there is a vote on anything to do with this before Thursday, it could severely impact Ryan’s previously-thought-to-be-easy chances to win the House Speakership election. Ryan is set to be nominated by the House GOP conference easily on Wednesday behind closed doors in a vote that requires just 125 Republicans to back him.
But on the House floor, assuming all members are present and voting for a person, just 29 Republicans could derail Ryan’s Speakership chances. That means with at least 11 members of the now-essentially-defunct House Freedom Caucus—it sold out its original principles by offering support to a Ryan speakership bid, even without an official endorsement—combined together with non-Freedom Caucus members like Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ryan Speakership rival candidate Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) would put the number of anti-Ryan votes close to 20 and nearly the full way necessary to take Ryan down on the House floor.
If Webster is able to carry some extra House colleagues with him, and King can rally his Conservative Opportunity Society—the group that’s expected to soon replace the House Freedom Caucus after the latter lost its relevancy in the Ryan affair—and a few other things go wrong between now and the end of the week, Ryan could go down in flames right before the vote just like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid went down at the last minute. But that’s a lot of ifs, and maybes, and it’s unclear what exactly will happen between now and Thursday. For now it still looks like Boehner’s man Ryan is going to become his successor.