Paul Ryan is a Man Who Takes His Responsibilities as a Public Official Seriously

My colleague Zaid Jilani has an excellent post dining Paul Ryan for massive hypocrisy on the subject of the budet reconciliation process, a procedural tactic that allows (some forms of) legislation to be moved through the Senate on a majority-rules basis.

Jilani observes that when people were talking about using reconciliation to pass progressive bills, Ryan denounced the idea:

Ryan called the reconciliation process a “convoluted legislative charade” and the result of Democrats “employing any means to achieve political victory” in an op-ed in the Washington Post. [3/14/10]

– The congressman referred to using reconciliation for the legislative fix to the bill as “an extraordinary and unprecedented abuse” of the reconciliation process during a debate on the House Budget Committee. “Never before has the House committee process been so grossly exploited,” he said. [3/15/10]

– In testimony before the House Rules Committee, Ryan complained of using the budget reconciliation process, “This is not good democracy. This is not good government.” He claimed his Democratic colleagues in the Senate didn’t have “the courage to have a clean up or down vote in the people’s house.” [3/20/10]

Then speaking on CNBC earlier this week, Ryan suddenly decided that using reconciliation to advance conservative ideas was awesome:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think this is a really genuinely and non-ironically praiseworthy attribute of the Republican congressional caucus that makes congressional Democrats look really, really bad. Republican members of congress and of the United States Senate generally have a correct understanding of the relationship between process and substance in a constitutional democracy, and do a good job of taking their responsibilities as public officials seriously. Some Democrats match them in these regards, but most utterly fail.

As you see here with Ryan (and in the generally Calvinball like approach the GOP has taken to the reconciliation question over the years), Republicans are determined to follow the actual laws and rules. When in the minority, they don’t rebel. They don’t murder their political opponents, they don’t organize coups d’état. What they do is they try to win legislative battles through all the tools at their disposal. And when in the majority they . . . do the same thing. They believe, strongly, that letting wealthy businessmen get what they want is good for America, and they go about doing that with seriousness of purpose. Many Democrats, by contrast, seem to believe that their highest responsibility is to make themselves look good, to preen for the cameras, or to maximize their own personal authority.

But they’re wrong and Ryan is right. The procedural rules are levers to be deployed on behalf of important goals, not holy writ to which policy objectives should be subordinated.