Paul Ryan Says Conservative Attacks Are a ‘Strange New Normal’

As outside groups pile on, the Republican budget negotiator says he is sticking to principles.

Rep. Paul Ryan on December 1, 2010.
National Journal
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Shane Goldmacher
Dec. 11, 2013, 6:31 a.m.

For years, Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Paul Ry­an has been hois­ted on a ped­es­tal by con­ser­vat­ive think tanks and act­iv­ist groups as the par­agon of con­ser­vat­ism in Con­gress. But all the ac­col­ades bought him zero good­will this week, as he craf­ted his first bi­par­tis­an budget pact.

The Cato In­sti­tute called the pack­age a “huge Re­pub­lic­an cave-in.” The Club for Growth lamen­ted it as “budget­ary smoke and mir­rors.” Her­it­age Ac­tion said it was “a step back­ward.” And Freedom­Works called it a “sur­render.”

It’s quite the turn­about for a politi­cian whose rap­id rise was fueled, in part, by the back­ing of such groups.

“It’s a strange new nor­mal, isn’t it,” Ry­an said with a laugh Wed­nes­day, after he presen­ted the pack­age to his House GOP col­leagues. “It is what it is. It’s funny, isn’t it?”

Ry­an said he was con­fid­ent, des­pite the out­side rabble-rous­ing, that a ma­jor­ity of House Re­pub­lic­ans will back the pack­age.

“I don’t let that stuff both­er me any­more. Groups are go­ing to do what they want to do,” Ry­an said. “What mat­ters to me is: Am I do­ing what I think is right? Am I stick­ing to my prin­ciples? And am I listen­ing to my col­leagues who ac­tu­ally have a vot­ing card?”

He said con­ser­vat­ives need to ac­cept that their pre­ferred agenda will not pass through so long as gov­ern­ment is di­vided. “I think we need to win some elec­tions be­fore we can ac­tu­ally truly fix this prob­lem,” the 2012 los­ing vice pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate said of the na­tion’s debt.

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