The role Republican Congressman Paul Ryan played during the New Year’s Day fiscal cliff debacle cannot go unnoticed.
He was, after all, the budget whizkid tapped to propel Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to success.
While Rep. Eric Cantor,R-Va., was letting his staunch opposition to the Senate-approved budget deal be known throughout the day (much to conservatives’ glee) Ryan was skipping past reporters and answering questions with sports talk, claiming to have ”reception” issues - or less.
At 10:08 am ET, Luke Russert tweeted that he had just asked Ryan if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s “no” vote on the fiscal cliff deal would influence him.
Of course, Ryan—after a chaotic day of political posturing—would ultimately vote opposite Rubio, who is a potential early challenger in the 2016 Republican field.
By casting his vote in favor of the deal, Ryan also broke with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, among others.
In one moment caught on camera, Ryan is seen approaching a row of reporters asking, “Does anybody know the Rose Bowl score?” On his lapel, a Badger sticker showed Ryan’s support for Wisconsin against Stanford in Pasadena.
According to Slate’s Dave Weigel, who also described Ryan walking through a room at one point wearing a single iPod earbud, the would-be veep would later ask reporters about the “score” again—touching off some confusion about whether he meant the score on the budget numbers or in the football game.
The Rose Bowl ended in a 20-14 Stanford victory over Wisconsin, a home-state Ryan failed to deliver in the November presidential race, despite his fierce Badger pride (See “my veins bleed Miller” from our TopLines presidential trail lookback).
Finally, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Ryan’s press office released a full statement.
In it, Ryan hits the president as insistently “taking more” from hardworking taxpayers; cites “concerns with other provisions of the bill”; and commends his colleagues for “limiting the damage as much as possible.”
“But the question remains: Will the American people be better off if this law passes relative to the alternative?” the statement reads in the third of four paragraphs. “In the final analysis, the answer is undoubtedly yes.”
“I came to Congress to make tough decisions—not to run away from them,” Ryan said.
It is a familiar refrain for any close watcher of the presidential campaign—a refrain that this time, may hold a grain of truth—albeit with a very hard swallow.