Ryan's Fiscal-Conservative Credentials Get More Scrutiny

National Journal Staff

Rep. Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate was based in no small part on Ryan's reknown as a fiscal conservative. But news organizations examining his background have highlighted issues that could complicate the Wisconsin Republican's efforts to drive home that reputation with voters.

The most recent example is Ryan's defense of an economic stimulus plan to boost an ailing economy during George W. Bush's administration. Although the House Budget Committee chairman has derided the $787 billion stimulus that President Obama pushed through Congress in 2009, MSNBC on Sunday aired a video of Ryan praising the idea seven years earlier.

"What we're trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed," Ryan said, in comments aired by MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes and also provided to Huffington Post. "What we're trying to accomplish is to pass the kinds of legislation that when they've passed in the past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work."

The video featured Ryan saying, "In recessions, unemployment lags on well after a recovery has taken place" -- an argument similar to one that Obama later advanced.

The New Republic also noted Ryan's comments at a 2001 hearing in support of stimulating the economy. When an economist testified that sufficiently-sized economic measures weren't passed early enough in the past, Ryan responded: "That is why I like my porridge hot. I think we ought to have this income tax cut fast, deeper, retroactive to January 1st, to make sure we get a good punch into the economy, juice the economy to make sure that we can avoid a hard landing."

Several other news outlets, including Reuters and The Los Angeles Times, have noted Ryan's efforts in 2009 to keep open a General Motors plant in his hometown on Janesville, Wis.

Ryan lobbied the Obama administration for federal retraining and economic-development funds. He later broke with his party -- and his future presidential running mate Mitt Romney -- in joining 31 other House Republicans to back a $15 billion federal bailout for GM and Chrysler. Democrats say a subsequent Obama-initiated bailout has helped revive those companies.

Such developments come on the heels of Ryan's acknowledgment that his staff sought funding under his name for Wisconsin companies seeking stimulus funds after he initially denied he was involved in any such efforts. He also backed Bush's Medicare prescription-drug benefit that passed the House in 2003 amid much controversy. And some commentators have pointed out Ryan's unwillingness to predict when his budget would balance, noting that it might not occur until the 2030s.

Ryan has said that he regretted the big spending during the Bush era and that he cast votes that he regrets. He told The New Yorker that he was “miserable during the last majority” and is determined “to do everything I can to make sure I don’t feel that misery again.”