(Bloomberg) — Hours after congressional leaders unveiled a bipartisan budget agreement, the man who’s in line to be U.S. House speaker attacked the deal for being conceived in secret.
“This process stinks,” Rep. Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Ryan will back the deal. In a statement Wednesday morning he said he’ll support the agreement because it “will go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us.”
The two-year budget accord set for a House vote Wednesday bears some similarities to an earlier bipartisan spending deal that Ryan forged with Democrats in 2013. In that way, it offers a glimpse of how he would run the House, in both style and substance.
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Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray held weeks of secret talks before announcing their two-year budget deal in December 2013, just days before votes in Congress. Like this week’s plan, it raised federal spending caps — evenly split between defense and non-defense programs — by cutting some mandatory programs and raising fees.
The deal touches on two areas where Ryan may seek common ground with Democrats: revamping spending on entitlements such as Social Security and boosting defense spending. Both are hallmarks of his philosophy on budgeting.
“It does include meaningful reforms to strengthen our safety net programs, including significant changes to bolster Social Security,” Ryan said in the statement. “It would allow us to return to regular order in our budget process. And it would mean our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to carry out their mission.”
The outstanding question is how Ryan will navigate between the hard-line Freedom Caucus Republicans who drove outgoing Speaker John Boehner to resign and his reputation as a pragmatic leader who understands that things need to be accomplished.
Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows of North Carolina complained in a message that rank-and-file members had “zero input” to the new plan. He called on all candidates for speaker to “oppose this legislation and go on record showing they do not support this approach to governing.”
Ryan emphasized to reporters Tuesday that things will change when he’s handed the speaker’s gavel Thursday. “This is not the way to do the people’s business and under new management we are not going to do the people’s business this way,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid dismissed Ryan’s concerns. The negotiations were held under the “same process he used with Patty Murray two years ago, so he should go back and look at his clippings,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
This week is the start of what may be a short honeymoon for Ryan as speaker. He’s already finding the goodwill he earned as a budget wonk and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee being tested.
Freedom Caucus member Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, said before Ryan announced his support that the impact of the budget deal on the start of Ryan’s speakership “depends on how Paul votes.”
“Is he going to support kind of the last worst deal of John Boehner?” he asked.
Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, chairman of the 170-member Republican Study Committee, provided a softer view, saying he believes conservatives won’t blame Ryan for the accord.
“This doesn’t say Paul Ryan on it,” Flores said. “It doesn’t appear to have Paul’s fingerprints.”
Boehner reiterated to reporters Tuesday that he has been intentionally trying to provide cover to his successor.
“I made it clear a month ago when I announced that I was leaving that I would do my best to clean the barn,” the Ohio Republican said. “So, I’ve done my best to clean it up.”
Asked about Ryan’s comments on the closed-door negotiations, Boehner said, “I’m in full agreement. It stinks.” But he said that when “you’ve got the situation that we’re dealing with today,” there is not much choice.