It turns out that Paul Ryan is an even worse Speaker of the House than John Boehner was, if you can imagine that. Ryan is so bad that he can't get House Republicans, with the largest margin of control they've had since Herbert Hoover, to even pass their own budget on time.
Under the government's arcane budget law, the House is supposed to produce a budget by this Friday, April 15. But a tea party revolt over Ryan's embrace of last year's bipartisan deal with President Barack Obama to increase spending has left him well short of the votes he needs.
"It would appear that we're not going to have a budget," the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, told reporters Tuesday. "They made it a big deal. Hypocrisy is part of it," he added. "They're in deep disarray."
House Republicans met the budget deadline each of the five years they controlled the House under the leadership of John Boehner, who was ousted as speaker last fall under conservative pressure. Ryan himself, his party's 2012 vice presidential nominee, chaired the House Budget Committee for much of that time and guided the "Ryan Budget" that slashed entitlement spending. But he also cut a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House that enhanced his profile as a charismatic, policy-focused conservative.
The Wisconsin Republican has repeatedly lambasted Democrats when they didn't get budgets done while in congressional control, even backing a law that would have cut off the paychecks of lawmakers if they failed to pass a budget.
Ryan's own inability to deliver now that he's speaker raises questions about his stewardship of the House, and whether his repeated promises to return power to rank-and-file lawmakers can produce results, given how unwilling some of them are to compromise. And amid an angry GOP presidential campaign that's exposed deep divisions in the party, Ryan's honeymoon in the House may be coming to an end if he's unable to bridge the same divide between hard-core conservatives and more pragmatic-minded lawmakers that defeated his predecessor.
"There was a lot of excitement last fall when newly elected Speaker Ryan was talking about 2016 being a year of policy and passing a robust policy agenda," said Dan Holler, spokesman at Heritage Action for America. "It's been pretty underwhelming."
If I were a betting man, I'd say that Ryan is dragging his feet for a reason. The "Ryan Budgets" with their trillions in austerity cuts absolutely helped to sink Mitt Romney four years ago. Now Paul Ryan would have to take total ownership of a House Republican austerity budget as a presidential candidate. That's a recipe for a loss nearly as bad as what a Trump candidacy would bring and he knows it, and he's looking past 2016.
So no, don't look for a budget from Republicans anytime soon, especially in an election year. Actually putting down on paper what they would cut for Democrats to run against is the last thing the GOP wants to do.