Mitt Romney has been talking up Rep. Paul Ryan’s bipartisan credentials since he unveiled the congressman as his running mate early Saturday. But the mild-mannered Wisconsinite’s record reveals a near-total absence of Democratic support for his many ambitious proposals, very few of which have won enough support to become law.
“This guy’s a real leader,” Romney told CBS News on Sunday. “He’s reached across the aisle. He’s worked with Democrats, Republicans. Tried to take on the toughest issues America faces.”
On the campaign trail in Florida Monday, Romney again praised Ryan for “working across the aisle” to find solutions to the nation’s problems.
The argument belies Ryan’s storied record as a no-compromise conservative ideologue, an approach that has become more rigid during the Obama administration. He has become his party’s visionary on sweeping proposals to remake the federal budget, wedding nearly all Republicans to a blueprint that has failed to win over a single Democrat.
In almost 13 years as a congressman, Ryan has proposed just two bills that have passed and become law, one of which involved renaming a post office in his district. It’s a low number by any standard, but particularly for a chairman of the powerful Budget Committee. He has introduced many bills, including a Social Security privatization measure in 2004 so far-reaching that the Bush White House called it “irresponsible.”
Statistics peg Ryan as a staunch conservative. According to the DW-Nominate metric, Ryan’s voting record makes him almost as conservative as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and more conservative than Rep. Allen West (R-FL). By the same measurement, Ryan is the most right-wing member of Congress to be selected for vice president since at least 1900, according to data analyzed by the New York Times.
Ryan has also thwarted bipartisan efforts at debt reduction, an issue he frequently touts as a top national priority. He attacked and voted against the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan in late 2010, which would have reduced the nation’s budget shortfall by trillions of dollars with a combination of spending cuts and new revenues. “It does not fix the problem,” he has said.
The Romney campaign’s lone evidence that Ryan is a bipartisan leader amounts to a vague blueprint he co-wrote with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) late last year that mirrors key elements of his Medicare plan. Wyden voted against Ryan’s budget and said Romney’s characterization of their work was dishonest.
“Governor Romney is talking nonsense. Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts,” Wyden’s office said in a statement. “I did not ‘co-lead a piece of legislation.’ I wrote a policy paper on options for Medicare. Several months after the paper came out I spoke and voted against the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget. Governor Romney needs to learn you don’t protect seniors by makings things up, and his comments sure won’t help promote real bipartisanship.”
Even in his lukewarm way, Wyden remains the only Democrat to support any aspect of Ryan’s Medicare vision, which partially privatizes the program.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.