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Paul Ryan and Chris Van Hollen: the fiscal bellwethers

The two House members – longtime ideological foes – will play a central role in bringing their respective party members along if Congress is ever to cut a grand fiscal deal. 

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In this Mar. 18 file photo, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The House Budget Committee battles between Republican Chairman Paul Ryan and the panel's top Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, seem like the last place you would look for the embers of bipartisan accord.

Beyond their often spirited repartee in the hearing room, Representative Van Hollen of Maryland was among the most fervent in trying to oust Republicans across the country in the 2012 election for their support of the budget plan championed by the Wisconsin Republican. Mr. Ryan excoriated Democrats' own budget priorities as the GOP's vice presidential nominee.

Yet if Washington is going to find the grand fiscal accord that has proved so elusive, these two longtime antagonists will play a central role. On both the politics and policy of the budget, Van Hollen and Ryan are bellwethers of their respective conferences. As much as any two people in Congress, they would be critical in rallying their colleagues to get a deal that has the tax increases Republicans abhor and the entitlement changes Democrats equally detest.

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