Paul Ryan stands accused of complicity in the right-wing blogosphere's most recent scandal du jour: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to remove a handful of conservative members from the House Financial Services Committee and the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs.
Those “purged” include members who have criticized Republicans for being too tepid on deficit reduction.
“RYAN STONEWALLS ON INVOLVEMENT WITH BOEHNER PURGE,” screams a headline on Breitbart.com, the eponymous website of the late Andrew Breitbart, the provocative activist who helped bring down former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.
“As House Speaker John Boehner continues to hide the details of what happened and why during his conservative purge of House committees, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan is eschewing comment and instead directing all inquiries about the purge to Boehner’s office,” begins the article.
It doesn’t take a political expert to figure out why Ryan is directing comment on the decision to the man who made the decision.
But Ryan’s silence on the issue does contrast with that of the chair of the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who has told news outlets that he was “offended” to learn that two members of his committee had been removed without his notice.
Tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made clear that Ryan had better watch his back.
“I don’t know if any of these people want to run for president — maybe they’re going to have to explain why they wanted to purge people from their committees who believe in balancing the budget,” he said during an interview with conservative radio host Peter Schiff.
Conservative criticism of Ryan, who voted for many of the expensive foreign and domestic policies that defined the Bush era, is nothing new. Many tea party activists, for instance, regard him as a conservative of convenience — the guy who won the limelight by promoting conservative principles but will back off them when his political career is on the line.
“He has been out there (in Washington) too long,” Patricia Kohlman, the head of the Manitowoc County TEA Movement, told me in August, shortly after Ryan had been added to the GOP presidential ticket. “Who knows what (establishment Republicans) have talked him into?”
Indeed, although Ryan repeatedly promised voters throughout the 2012 presidential campaign that the GOP ticket would “not duck the tough issues,” he and Romney were unwilling to specify what government spending they planned to cut.
And, just this week, Ryan signed off on Boehner's commitment to President Obama to support $800 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years as part of the negotiations to prevent the U.S. from falling off the "fiscal cliff."