In January, he cited the merits of "prudence" in governing, encouraging conservative Republicans to "make decisions anchored in reality and take responsibility for the consequences." In August, Ryan said that trying to delay or replace the so-called "Obamacare" law by shutting down the government was tantamount to "swinging for the fences" and there were better ways to undercut the law.
During the shutdown, Ryan kept a relatively low profile and wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that promoted several ways to increase revenue and cut spending, including an increase in Medicare premiums for the wealthy. It made no mention of efforts to defund the health care overhaul, which the tea party had demanded.
Ryan ultimately voted against the House plan to end the government shutdown and avoid a default, calling it a missed opportunity to address the nation's debt. Republicans say privately that position could help him in the budget talks, giving him credibility with conservative members.
"The caucus trusts him and knows he's a real conservative," said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist. "That is a super asset in this environment with the House."
During the panel's first public hearing Wednesday, Ryan described the talks as an opportunity to address the debt while interest rates remain low — but also made clear that new taxes would find no support from his side.
"I want to say this from the get-go: If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we're not going to get anywhere," Ryan said, signaling that there were limits to his collaborative tone.
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report from Madison, Wis., while AP writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report from Washington.
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