He's the House budget chairman and the man many thought may come in as the new leader in the House, perhaps even his beleaguered Republican Party. During the campaign, he pushed cutting spending and stressed entitlement reform, despite the political risks.
The day after the election, House Speaker John Boehner, the man now at the center of the negotiations with President Obama, called Ryan, according to a Boehner aide, because the speaker wanted "to make sure he was in the fold from Day One," adding he's been a "close part of the thought process."
And an aide to Ryan, who asked that his name not be used, says the role of the Wisconsin congressman is as a "resource to the speaker, a resource to House Republicans."
"He has responsibilities as the House budget chairman, he has responsibilities to the first district of Wisconsin. He needed to be where the fight is," added the aide. Nevertheless he wants to be "deferential" to those leading the conversation -- namely Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
Since the lame duck session began, Ryan has attended the daily leadership meetings that Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy, and chairman of the House Republican Conference Cathy McMorris-Rodgers attend. Ryan -- along with Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, who leads the Ways and Means Committee, and Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee -- is new to these daily meetings.
"It is a daily group conversation about what our positions should be and where they think we should be headed," said the Boehner aide, who also asked that his name not be used, said.
And it's as this type of resource to Boehner and other House Republicans that Ryan is comfortable being in the background.
It reveals an obvious struggle: one in which Ryan doesn't want to overstep his role, but clearly wants to keep his options open for 2016 whether or not the country ends up going off the cliff at the end of the year or averting disaster.
Ryan told Time magazine this week on the 2016 front that he's "decided not to decide."
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