Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican party’s presumptive Vice Presidential nominee, took office 13 years ago. We can learn a lot from his legislative record as the congressman from Wisconsin’s 1st district.
Budget, taxes, and Medicare
During his tenure in Congress Ryan sponsored 75 bills, mostly related to the budget, taxes, and our government-run health care programs. Although he is known today for wanting to privatize Medicare, many of his bills attempt to reform Congress’s budgeting process in smaller pieces. His bill H.R. 5259 in 2002 would have changed budgeting to occur every two years rather than every year, in an attempt to make Congress’s time spent on budgeting more efficient.
The two bills he wrote that have become law modified excise taxes on arrows and named a post office. He’s currently the chair of the House Committee on the Budget. Budgeting hasn’t been going well. Last year the government almost defaulted on its debts because no budget had been passed! (The standoff between the two parties goes well beyond Ryan’s control, though.)
Ideology & Leadership
Our unique analysis of ideology and leadership in Congress puts Ryan right in the middle of the Republican House members:
Ideology is based on a statistical analysis that puts congressmen with similar patterns of co-sponsorship of bills closer together. Ryan co-sponsors bills that the middle of his party tends to co-sponsor. He’s neither extreme nor a centrist.
In this chart, congressional leaders are those representatives who tend to get a lot of cosponsors without necessarily cosponsoring other bills in return. Ryan is right about in the middle. But he is a little below the average leadership score of the 44 Republican representatives serving as long as Ryan.
Leadership is based on an analysis that’s similar to how Google decides which web pages to show first in search results. (More analysis details.)
Crossing party lines?
From Ryan’s position along the ideology axis of the chart above, you’d guess that he crosses party lines about an average number of times for House Republicans.
In a Washington Post story today that cites statistics from GovTrack, one former staffer said Ryan was all but compromising:
[T]hose who have watched Ryan’s recent career . . . say finding common ground has not seemed to be Ryan’s interest. “No, goodness, gracious.” said Steve Bell, a longtime Republican staffer on the Hill, who now works at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
But the statistics tell another story.
Of the 975 bills Ryan cosponsored since coming to DC, 22% were introduced by Democrats. That’s right in the middle. The freshmen members of the Republican caucus this Congress — many of them from the Tea Party — tended to cosponsor Democrats’ bills only 11% of the time. The Republicans except the freshmen did so 25% of the time. Overall, Ryan is at the 58th percentile, so a little more cross-partisan than most Republican congressmen.
Similar conclusions come from looking at the number of cosponsors of Ryan’s bills that were Democrats. Of the 75 bills he sponsored since he took office, 26% of his cosponsors were Democrats. Republican freshmen got 19%, Republicans except freshmen got 29%. Compared to the whole party, Ryan is at the 53rd percentile — he’s right in the middle.