WASHINGTON — As Rep.Paul D. Ryan begins to campaign as the presumed Republican vice presidential nominee, one aspect of his political career will be with him always: his votes.
After nearly 14 years in Congress, the Wisconsin representative has amassed a record on many of the critical issues that have come to define the country's partisan divide.
Overall, Ryan's votes define him as a loyal GOP foot soldier — one who has sided with party leaders even in cases in which some other small-government conservatives have refused to do so.
In crucial moments near the end ofGeorge W. Bush's presidency, for example, when the White House pleaded with Congress for a bank bailout plan to save free-falling financial markets, Ryan joined the effort to pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Dozens of Republicans did not. Ryan also joined in passing the auto industry bailout in late 2008, in the lame-duck session before the new Congress.
He voted in 2003 for Bush's proposal for a new Medicare prescription drug benefit, in a vote that saw more than dozen defectors within the party. Some conservatives, at the time and since, have criticized Medicare Part D as a costly government expansion.
That pattern continued as Ryan rose in the ranks of the House, becoming Budget Committee chairman. Early in this Congress, when some of his fellow Republicans threatened to shut down the government as one of the first acts of the new House GOP majority in 2011, Ryan voted for the budget deal to keep the government running.
Last summer, as the nation teetered on the brink of what would have been its first federal default, the tea-party-fueled House pushed for spending cuts in exchange for approving an often-routine request to raise the debt ceiling.
Hard-line conservatives, dozens of them, opposed the final deal. But Ryan voted for the package that promised future budget cuts in exchange for more borrowing to pay the nation's bills.
On social issues, Ryan has hewed to the party line, casting votes that Democrats hope may be controversial.
Ryan voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, an antiabortion measure that won widespread approval in the House in 2011 but stalled in the Senate.
Immigration activists said Saturday that the choice of Ryan may do little to help his party win more of the crucial Latino vote, as the congressman voted against the Dream Act. A top priority among Latino voters, the act would have provided young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children a path to citizenship if they attended college or served in the military.
On gay rights, Ryan voted against the historic repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2010. But he helped approve the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in 2007.
Early last decade, Ryan voted with his party, which was then the majority in the House, in passing Bush's tax-cut plan. Those tax breaks are again front and center in the political debate in Washington and on the campaign trail, as the lower rates are set to expire in December.
President Obama has sought to allow rates to rise on incomes above $250,000 for couples and above $200,000 for individuals. Ryan voted this month to extend the tax breaks for all Americans, including the wealthy.