In mock giddy appreciation of the return of GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to the Capitol from the campaign stump on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office has produced a sarcastic video titled “Welcome Back, Mr. Ryan!”
Their video opens with the tune from the 1970s TV sitcom “Welcome Back Kotter,” and then proceeds to show Ryan being assailed on talk shows and elsewhere on some of his political stances in instances where his answers appear less than confident.
Other top House Democrats are also seizing on Ryan’s return to the Capitol to vote on a stopgap spending measure. They suggest that their congressional campaigns are going to benefit as a result of Mitt Romney’s having added Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, to the top of the GOP ticket.
"Paul Ryan has become a down-ballot disaster for Republicans,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., told reporters on Thursday morning. Since last spring, House Democrats have tried to push the GOP's efforts to overhaul Medicare, which Ryan led, to the front burner of the national political conversation. Israel said that Romney’s choice of Ryan “gave us the debate we wanted.”
Ryan’s return to the Capitol comes because the House will vote at about 6 p.m. on a stopgap bill to keep the federal government running beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year--an issue that touches on his Budget Committee duties. Whether his schedule includes any other public appearances at the Capitol is uncertain.
Ryan vice presidential campaign spokesman Brendan Buck was not amused by the video and other Democratic angling.
“With President Obama's failed leadership leaving us with 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent, another trillion-dollar deficit, and looming defense cuts that will devastate our military, do his allies in the Congress have nothing better to do than engage in stale political attacks?” asked Buck.
But Democrats apparently don’t want his appearance to go unnoticed.
A major part of their video shows Ryan being asked about--and trying to defend--how he and other Republicans can criticize Democrats for the looming defense sequester cuts, even though he and other GOP lawmakers also voted in favor of last year’s Budget Control Act. That law forced those defense and domestic cuts that start on Jan. 2, because of a mechanism triggered by the failure of the so-called deficit super committee to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years.
It is not certain whether Ryan will participate in another vote early on Thursday evening on a House Republican sequester-replacement bill, which would offset the first $110 billion round of those forced cuts set for January, including cuts to food stamps and other safety-net programs. That vote is expected to occur shortly before the House votes at about 6 p.m. on the six-month continuing resolution to keep government running beyond Oct. 1.
In reality, the Republicans’ sequester-replacement bill is little more than a pre-election messaging vehicle, and it is also a disingenuous way to attack Democrats on the campaign stump for not helping to block the upcoming scheduled defense reductions.
Democrats want to offset those cuts, too. But they instead want a combination of spending cuts and higher revenues, and House Republicans will not permit a vote on such a bill. The nuances of this standoff won’t be mentioned on the campaign stump in upcoming weeks, when Republicans criticize Democrats who decline to vote for the GOP version, and accuse them of failing to join Republicans in doing something to avoid the defense cuts.
The Democratic video greeting Ryan's return also shows him being criticized for his efforts to restructure Medicare and being less than specific about the Republicans' tax-reform efforts, and he is pressed about whether cutting taxes for the wealthy is really reform.
He would likely not be on the Hill at all, except that he remains the Budget Committee Chairman, and there is the continuing resolution to be voted on. The CR would fund the government at the $1.047 trillion level established as a discretionary spending cap in last year’s Budget Control Act.
That’s $19 billion higher than a fiscal 2013 budget drafted by Ryan earlier this year that set the spending cap for overall discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion. But even House conservatives have explained they are going along with this approach to a stopgap bill without a fight because it is preferable to having spending battles spill into a lame-duck session.
They worry that Democrats could use such skirmishes—and the stick of a potential government shutdown—to gain leverage on other year-end issues, including what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts.
Shane Goldmacher contributed to this article.