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Paul Ryan's record: huge role in debt debate but few legislative wins

Rep. Paul Ryan's grasp of federal spending has given him an outsized role in defining the GOP position on deficits and debt, but he has a lower profile in driving the bipartisan compromises needed to pass laws.

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Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Monday, accompanied by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (l.).

Conrad Schmidt/AP

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Paul Ryan is a creature of Congress. Elected to the House in 1998 at the age of 28, the Wisconsin Republican had even spent much of the prior six years on or around Capitol Hill working as a staffer and at a conservative think tank.

Over that span, the man Mitt Romney tapped as his vice presidential running mate came to define his party's position on debt and deficits, after a rapid rise to lead the Budget Committee by virtue of his grasp on federal spending.

In a toxic political environment, he has built personal friendships and worked on policy proposals with Democrats, but he has yet to put his shoulders behind any bipartisan political initiative to rein in the national debt. Although Democrats dub his budgets extremist, Representative Ryan's voting record ranks in the center of his caucus.

Among Republicans, Ryan is seen as a leader and tutor on budget issues, a convivial mentor with deep knowledge of federal spending. And it is without question that he has done more to shape how Republican lawmakers talk about the budget than any other member of Congress. 

“Nobody understands the federal budget better than Paul, or has worked harder to develop and offer real solutions to the fiscal challenges facing America,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin in a statement.

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