I was fortunate enough to be invited to a breakfast with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) earlier this week. You may have seen some stories on that conversation, primarily in the Wall Street Journal, whose David Wessel and Gerald F. Seib organized the event. (A transcript is available to those with Wall Street Journal access in two parts, here and here.) A couple of takeaways for me:
Some press reports, including an editorial in the Washington Post, had suggested that House Republicans had foresworn the old “Boehner Rule” – which dictated that there be $1 of spending cuts for every $1 increase in the debt limit. The Post said that this change was highly meritorious, because there could be serious consequences if the debt limit were subject to such uncertainty. However, Chairman Ryan made clear that the Boehner Rule is alive and well, even though it may temporarily be suspended. Chairman Ryan saw two potential ways forward – that is, toward significant deficit reduction, in fact a balanced budget in ten years. One would be bipartisan cooperation, which he did not rule out but saw as unlikely. The second was the use of rolling “fiscal cliffs,” including the expiration of continuing resolutions for annual appropriations, deadlines for sequesters, and applications of the Boehner Rule for short-term increases in the debt limit.