How Paul Ryan Would Solve the Shutdown Showdown

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Charles Dharapak/AP

As the government shutdown entered its second week, one key player seemed to be missing in the back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats on fiscal policy: Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The Republican from Wisconsin dismissed criticism that he has been AWOL in ongoing budget talks, telling his hometown paper on Saturday, "I am hunkered down and doing my job with my staff, with leadership trying to come up with solutions to this problem." If he has something "meaningful" to add to the conversation, he said, he would share it with the press.

That time has come. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal published Tuesday night, the former vice presidential candidate outlined a plan to end the stalemate on the Hill. First, as his fellow Republicans have said, President Obama should "come to the table," Paul says. "We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today—and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow."

The way to do that, to cut spending and pay down the federal debt, is to reform entitlement programs and the tax code, Paul said. Such reforms would be packaged into a bigger budget deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default next week. "This isn't a grand bargain," Ryan writes. "For that, we need a complete rethinking of government's approach to helping the most vulnerable, and a complete rethinking of government's approach to health care."

What that "complete rethinking" is, however, Ryan doesn't share with readers. The op-ed makes no mention of what precipitated the 11th-hour showdown in Washington: the Affordable Care Act. By glossing over the law, Ryan is distancing himself from members of the House GOP who refuse to pass a continuing resolution without health care stipulations.

The omission didn't fall on deaf ears in the conservative sphere, and Republicans criticized Ryan for trying to shift the conversation away from their main talking point. Amanda Carpenter, the senior communications adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the campaign to defund the Affordable Care Act, tweeted Wednesday morning, "There is one big word missing from this op-ed. It starts with an O and ends with BAMACARE."

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