David Frum

12.12.12

Preventing a Revolt in the GOP House

Conservatives can breath a quiet sigh of relief after reading Robert Costa's column on the Boehner-Ryan relationship, which portends to stability for the House GOP caucus. Despite grumblings from the fiscal fringe, signs point to Boehner keeping his hold on the GOP's sole majority in Washington DC.

Ryan’s low-key presence has several political implications. First and foremost, it boosts Speaker Boehner. As a popular former vice-presidential nominee, Ryan could have easily asserted himself as a leading player. Because Ryan hasn’t done that, Boehner has been, without question, the chief negotiator and spokesman for House Republicans. Ryan’s reluctance to enter the fray also means any conservative rebellion will almost certainly lack his blessing.

“I think Ryan sees Boehner as trying to do the right thing,” says Yuval Levin, a longtime Ryan associate and policy scholar. “If there is a deal, he will evaluate it. But he is letting the process play out.”

As Ryan sources explain, the 42-year-old congressman wants to let Boehner do his job, and to get back to a routine of his own. Ryan’s main project remains the budget committee, where he has served as chairman since January 2011. He sees his seat as an optimal platform to shape the national debate over the long term. In his speech to the Kemp Foundation, he spoke about poverty and civil society, which showed an eagerness to get beyond his reputation as a green-eyeshades budget maven. As Ryan has mulled his future, Boehner has welcomed him back into the fold. They’re not buddies, but they’re working together behind the scenes as Boehner negotiates with the White House.