Tea Party's ignorant, empty threat: Why Paul Ryan will be just fine

Up in arms over the budget deal, right-wing nuts say Paul Ryan can't run for president now. Here's what they forget

Published December 11, 2013 5:04PM (EST)

Paul Ryan                                      (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
Paul Ryan (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan "can kiss goodbye any chances of running for president in 2016," claims Todd Cefaratti of something called TheTeaParty.net. "This [budget deal] is really Mickey Mouse," somehow-popular radio monster Mark Levin said to Paul Ryan last night.

Heritage Action and other outside conservative groups opposed the deal Ryan struck with Sen. Patty Murray before it was even announced, and potential presidential rivals like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have been quick to posture against the deal. Ryan's most vocal support so far has been from the House leadership, and who likes them? They are all RINO sellouts; we know them well. For shame, Paul Ryan. For. Shame.

Well, one thing we know for sure is that Todd Cefaratti, at least, is wrong. Paul Ryan doesn't have to kiss away "any chances of running for president in 2016." He does have a chance to run for president; all he needs to do is fill out some paperwork to declare his candidacy. We're being tedious, because it's fun, but let's presume Cefaratti meant he kissed away any chances of being elected president in 2016 -- or, more pertinently, winning the Republican nomination for president in 2016. How screwed does Ryan's action -- you know, doing his job, by producing a conference report on the budget -- make him in the "upcoming" nomination battle, should he choose to partake in it?

The "Tea Party wing" of the party is upset at Ryan, specifically, for allowing the top-line discretionary spending level to rise to $1.012 trillion instead of keeping it steady at $967 billion. That's in compliance with the Budget Control Act, since this sequester relief is offset by pay-fors in the form of additional fees (not to the Tea Party's pleasure) and fairly grotesque hikes in civilian and military pension plan contributions (more to the Tea Party's pleasure). One might even call those pay cuts for government workers, which is supposed to be something conservatives like.

More vaguely, the "Tea Party wing" is upset that the budget deal doesn't fundamentally and radically reshape government in its grand vision. Here's a bit more of that Mark Levin interview:

Levin repeatedly expressed his disappointment in the fact that deal only seeks to cut $23 billion over a decade.

“We’re facing a fiscal disaster, I know you know this, you’ve told me this,” Levin said. “And we’re talking about $23 billion over 10 years?”

Ryan agreed the deal doesn’t fix the country’s financial woes, but the “precedent” that is being set is a step in the right direction.

If you're of the school of thought that a debt crisis and collapse of the dollar is likely to come tomorrow! then you're going to be fairly upset with any budget that doesn't cut the national debt in half by tomorrow! But that's obviously silly and terrible and certainly not something that can be expected from a Republican budgeteer negotiating with a Democratic Senate en route to a signature from a Democratic White House.

Paul Ryan's chances of becoming president aren't much worse than they were yesterday morning, before this budget deal came out.

For one, in 2016, is a broad swath of the Republican electorate really going to be furiously shouting, "RINO TRAITOR PAUL RYAN ALLOWED DISCRETIONARY SPENDING TO INCREASE FROM $967 BILLION TO $1.012 (ALBEIT WITH PAY-FORS THAT WE SORT OF LIKE) IN THE BUDGET DEAL HE HELPED NEGOTIATE SEVERAL YEARS AGO! BURN HIM!" It seems ... forgettable. Forgettable by next week, really.

And look at the parts of the electorate that Ryan's plan will please. For one, defense hawks, and the military industrial complex, and the state of Virginia, for whom the sequester and the next round of cuts were targeted beginning in the new year. Then there's the donor class -- and really anyone for whom a return to regular order comes as welcome news -- who were thisclose to abandoning the stupid party over its meaningless shutdown antics a couple of months ago. And don't forget the mainstream press, who are already head-over-heels with Paul Ryan becoming a Responsible Statesman Who Sacrifices Ideology To Get Things Done.

Not that there's any chance Paul Ryan has shed ideology in a permanent sense, anyway. He was working with the hand he was dealt. If a President Paul Ryan was working with a Republican House and Senate, you'd better believe the ol' Ryan Plan would come right back off the shelf and he'd be pushing for voucherized Medicare, sharply reduced Medicaid block grants to the state, and "saving Social Security," along with anemic levels of discretionary spending. What's ironic about that, of course, is that then he'd be getting pushback from Republicans in Congress, who like to gab about gutting the welfare state but, when actually faced with the prospect of doing it, would get cold feet because they don't actually want the political fallout from screwing over seniors.

So, not only does Paul Ryan have a "chance of running" -- he can fill out that paperwork with the best of 'em! -- but he may even have a slight chance of winning.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Elections Budget Gop Heritage Action Paul Ryan Sequestration Tea Party The Right