“He doesn’t want to be part of this,” said Rep. Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “He doesn’t know where he fits in. With the tea-party guys? No, he doesn’t want to be associated with them.”

Conor Sweeney, a spokesman for Ryan, says, “Chairman Ryan continues to work with his colleagues to forge a budget agreement.” His office declined an interview request.

Aides to other top House Republicans say Ryan is, in fact, busy in closed-door meetings, working to craft the House Republicans’ strategy and legislation on the debt ceiling. …

“Part of the low visibility might have to do with where he wants to go next: president, speaker, chairman of Ways and Means,” says G. William Hoagland, a former GOP Senate Budget Committee staffer who is a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Each future position seems to recommend that it’s best to lay low and work behind the scenes, be a workhorse, not a show horse right now.”