Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Our Congressman Paul Ryan

Yesterday, the Kenosha News did an excellent write up on the front page of the Kenosha News.

As many of you have noticed- I have stopped linking to stories written in the Kenosha News. The reason is that the Kenosha News did not allow linking to their stories.

Currently, the Kenosha News is exploring a new beta program online. I scanned around looking for the "no linking" policy and I could not find it.

So I am hoping that it is okay to link to the Paul Ryan story-

WASHINGTON - As Paul Ryan strolls into the Longworth House Office Building early one morning last week, he looks like he could still pass for a member of the legion of young, post-college congressional staffers who populate Capitol Hill.

With freshly combed hair, a boyish face and a pair of little white iPod buds planted in his ears, Ryan looks like he wasn't even born when many of Congress' senior members had already become leaders.

He wasn't.

Now 36, Ryan was in the womb when the dean of Wisconsin's congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. Dave Obey, was first elected. Ryan was a third-grader when the state's senior-most Republican, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, took office.

Some members of the baby-boom generation - which Ryan frequently references in making his case to reform Social Security - are old enough to be his parents.

But looks and dates don't necessarily tell the story of a fifth-term congressman, safe in his seat and well respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

By the end of the current term, Ryan, a Republican, will have spent a decade representing the Kenosha area in the House of Representatives.


In that time, his peers say, Ryan has established solid conservative credentials and a reputation as a well-thought-out source - some say the White House sometimes consults him - on such complex, divisive issues as the federal budget and Social Security reform.

"He is certainly one who my colleagues look to for good research, good information," said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., the ranking GOP member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Ryan has served a few terms on the powerful Ways and Means panel, and he was recently named the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee. To gain the latter post, Ryan leapfrogged 12 more senior Republicans on that committee.

Republicans and Democrats alike say those achievements are indicative of Ryan's drive and intellect."He's really very highly regarded on the Hill," said Sensenbrenner, who claims to be something of a mentor for Ryan.

"He has a lot of ideas; he has an infectious enthusiasm."

Sensenbrenner said that enthusiasm was once perhaps not a positive attribute.

Ryan took office in January 1999, when he was 28 years old.

A seasoned Capitol Hill staffer before he returned home to Janesville to seek election to Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District seat, Ryan had a tendency to come off as a made-to-order Washington policy wonk.

"When he started out, I think a lot people viewed him as a brash young kid," Sensenbrenner said. "When I started out, I think a lot of people said the same thing about me."

But, Sensenbrenner said, Ryan has grown further into his role with each re-election.Those haven't been a problem for Ryan - he's averaged about 66 percent of the vote in each of his biennial bids since 2000.

Even last year, when Democrats swept out the Republican majority, Ryan easily defeated Jeffrey Thomas, garnering 63 percent of the vote.Many of those national Republican losses were chalked up to widespread concern about the ethical quality of Congress.

Ryan, Sensenbrenner said, is the antithesis of a backroom dealmaker."He is a mover and a shaker, but basically he uses his ideas to move and shake things," Sensenbrenner said.

While they may disagree with him on most key issues - Ryan voted against all of the Democrats' "First 100 Hours" agenda items that hit the floor last week - Democratic representatives interviewed last week were not inclined to say anything bad about him.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he looks forward to reaching across partisan lines to work with Ryan.

"He's a bright young man, and it's not unusual for the committee to get the brightest that we have in the House," Rangel said.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat whose politics could not likely be farther from Ryan's, said Ryan is a person of significant political talent.

With a gradfatherly smile, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., called Ryan simply "a good fellow."

Ryan said he has no trouble liking those with whom he disagrees. He said he genuinely enjoys the company of Democrats such as Rangel, Baldwin and Milwaukee Rep. Gwen Moore, and he once brought one of Congress' most notoriously left-leaning representatives, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, to Racine for a hearing on reformulated fuels.

Ryan said he does not consider himself an ideologue.

"I'm not out leading the crusade for polarizing issues or right-wing or left-wing celebrity issues," Ryan said. "I'm out there trying to fix the problems that confront the people of southeastern Wisconsin.

To be sure, Ryan paints that picture with a consistently conservative brush.

"I think Paul Ryan is a reliable Republican vote," said McCrery, of the Ways and Means Committee.

"I think his philosophy is pretty in line with most Republicans."Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., a frequent ally of Ryan's, qualified this point, however.

"Although he's a conservative, I think he's viewed as a reasoned conservative who carefully thinks out his views and articulates them well," said Shadegg, who Ryan last year championed for the House Republican leader post that ultimately went to Ohio Rep. John Boehner.

Ryan said his top priorities for the new session - the first in which he will have to work in the minority - revolve around balancing the budget, preparing for the onset of baby-boomer retirements and reforming health care to make it more accessible, affordable and transparent.

As for his political future, Ryan simply says he would like to stay in Congress long enough to make a difference, though he does not offer a likely timetable. Whenever he's done in the House, he says he'll move on to the private sector.

Meanwhile, he dismisses rumblings about his possibly running for Senate, Wisconsin governor or - as an occasional insider suggests - president.

"I don't see this as my full career," Ryan said, of politics. "I see myself doing something - I don't know what it is " for the second half of my working life."

This article was written by Kenosha News writer, Joe Potente, as part of a series on the new Congress' first 100 hours.

Potente has proven himself to be fair to both sides of the ailse, which many of us appreciate.

1 comment:

BBG said...

The man has all the good stuff. No wonder I am proud to call him my Congressman