Budget Deal Sets Up Paul Ryan for 2016

John Boehner’s getting the buzz but Paul Ryan is the man to watch.

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House Speaker John Boehner, left, joined by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, takes reporters' questions on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.

House Speaker John Boehner is the Republican guy Washington is buzzing about. He spoke truth to power about the tea party, at long last, upon the emergence of a budget deal with the Senate. But someone close is about to steal his thunder.

Let's give him his due: Good for you, John, for standing up to those bullies. You were the head inmate running the asylum, but dang, you got no respect! The budget deal and your coming out as your own man are the closest things we have to a Christmas miracle in the capital. No more government shutdowns is a joyful thing to behold.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Yet, Boehner isn't cut out for a respectable Republican cloth coat in 2016. He doesn't have the easy command of issues a presidential candidate should possess. Strangely, he has both a temper and a tear factory on him. Frankly, he'd rather be golfing, anyway. His electorate will never rise above a southern slice of Ohio, which he represents perfectly.

The House Republican buried under the Boehner lead is Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Budget Committee. A logical contender for president, since he ran with Mitt Romney in 2012, his calm Midwestern manner may weather better than the bluster of Gov. Chris Christie – which will wear thin over a long campaign.

On substance, Ryan did the old-fashioned bargaining with his Democratic Senate counterpart, Patty Murray. Ryan sensibly observed that nobody gets everything they want in divided government. This was news to some of the House radical newcomers, but nobody cared. After the excruciating shutdown and the debt ceiling countdown in October, most House Republicans want to go straight in 2014. Congress knows peeved voters are making a list and checking it twice.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

So Ryan, who looks beguiling like the "Blue Boy" masterpiece painting, is the ingredient in the political chemistry that made the House majority change its behavior. Showing political prowess worthy of a standard-bearer, he got the better of the bargain with Murray. In the holiday season, he wrested the Democratic wish to extend unemployment benefits off the table. Very nice.

In approving the Murray-Ryan budget compromise, the House, for a change, took responsible action before the vexed Senate – which sees itself as the chamber of true reason. Boehner got the credit, but the true headliner will be Ryan. His party, at least its members in the House, genuinely respect him and mean to give him something to run on. In another sea change, Republicans are acting like a real political party that thinks of tomorrow and nurtures its young.

They sure gave Ryan something to write home about, as they say. And they don't mean just the great state of Wisconsin, where the Republican Party was founded, by golly. You'll be hearing more about that, just wait and see.

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