With Paul Ryan ready to run for speaker, a moment of truth for GOP holdouts

AP file photo

Rep. Paul Ryan (AP file photo)

Paul Ryan is finally on board with the idea of Paul Ryan being speaker of the House, and that’s the best news anyone in Congress has offered us in some time. Now it’s time for all House members who fancy themselves Republicans to get on board as well.

Ryan, the Wisconsinite who served as Mitt Romney’s running mate three years ago and is considered future presidential timber in his own right, is best-positioned to unite the House GOP conference. That’s in part because he is a policy guy whose policies (for the most part) are attractive across the Republican spectrum. His budgets as House Budget chairman remain the basis for most Republican thinking on the issue. As chairman of Ways and Means since January, he has not only made tax reform a priority, but given it the intellectual and political heft it needs if it’s to become reality. He is sometimes dinged for supporting comprehensive immigration reform, but the fact is that he supports a position that’s very much within the GOP mainstream — no matter how much that’s disputed by some folks to his right and on the left.

While telling his colleagues last night that he was willing to stand for speaker, he laid out certain conditions that must be met before he’ll become an official candidate for the office. It is surely rare that someone would require much of others in order to pursue one of the nation’s highest offices, but it is equally rare that the House finds itself in the position of no one else being clearly willing and able to win and hold the gavel. And the conditions he laid out are perfectly reasonable: They all point to maintaining unity among House Republicans in a way that departing Speaker John Boehner never managed for long.

The holdouts in this entire episode have been the three dozen or so members who compose the House Freedom Caucus. This group presents itself as the keepers of conservatism, but it is folly to think that only 1 in 7 House Republicans is a “real conservative.” Instead, they just appear to be the group that thinks it should always get its way on the most important issues. When its goals align perfectly with the rest of the conference, they’ll go along. If not, their numbers are just large enough to deny the speaker a majority consisting only of Republicans. The most common result is the speaker has had to negotiate with Democrats for a majority, meaning their holdouts lead to less conservative lawmaking rather than more conservative lawmaking. The example I noted yesterday of two different approaches to the debt ceiling from a pair of freshman Freedom Caucus members from Georgia illustrates the point.

And let’s be honest: The procedural beefs raised by the Freedom Caucus cut two ways. While leadership might be more accommodating of caucus members in the processes of amendments and debate, the caucus also has to recognize when it has lost on an issue. Forever falling back on procedure to gum up the works is no more open and cooperative than the leadership style for which they criticized Boehner.

So the Freedom Caucus’ response to Ryan’s conditions will be very telling. If they can’t reach a compromise with a man whose policy positions they generally respect, and who appears willing to meet them partway on procedural changes, they should think hard about whether they should take their chances forming a third party more to their liking — rather than coasting into office on the Republican name and then, too often, working against their party once they get there.

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33 comments
LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Generally, I would look with suspicion on anyone up for a leadership position basically saying "It's my way or the highway" in order to get into the position.  But in this case, it's a smart move by Ryan.  It calls out the Freedom Caucus for basically ruining the Republican Party by instilling "Party of No": No debate; No compromise; No way.  Moderate Republicans have learned that they created their own trap by being "Party of No" and the Freedom Caucus takes it a step further by not even working with other Republicans.  Why? "Because you're not conservative enough!!!" type of reasons. 


Nope. That doesn't look good for Republicans when the basic Freedom Caucus history has been. "We don't like your way, so see ya on the highway!" 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@LogicalDude

It occurs as well that if Ryan a) really wants this gig and b) really wants to run for higher office in 2020 or 2024, it might just burnish his cred quite a bit if he were able to claim that he'd brought order to chaos via rules changes. Enough to make the sausage-making process in which any Speaker must become enmeshed seem less gross? Maybe.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I am not with you on Ryan, Kyle.  Someone who is endorsed by Luis Guitterez and Harry Reid just seems extreme on the immigration battle, for a Republican.  He is on record as being for more immigration which might be fine for Wisconsin, but I think the polls show something like 80% of the GOP base support more restrictions on legal immigration and eliminating illegal immigration as much as possible.  I doubt the folks along the border would support his call for more immigrants.


Ryan was Obama's partner and confidant on the TPP, which loses support daily as folks claw their way into the secret room containing what data Obama/Ryan want them to be able to see.  Support for any deal based on trusting Obama is just irresponsible.


The FC's big issue as I understand it is returning to regular order, something Boehner promised when he took control.  The FC says he is as bad or worse than Pelosi in just focusing on issues his donors and party bosses want them to focus on.  Boehner has his cronies write bills to please his donor class and that is what the House concentrates on. The FC says they are useless, as non of the bills they get through committee go anywhere, and the establishment controlled committee assignments go to the folks who go along to get along.  It sounds like a dysfunctional place run by those in the Chamber of Commerce wing.


I am sure Ryan will satisfy enough of the FC to get in, but Ryan will just be John Boehner part II, and once again the House will be at odds with the voting base and in line with the Chamber of Commerce/donor class.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RafeHollister FWIW, Ryan told the GOP conference he wouldn't push for an immigration bill as long as Obama is president. And don't listen to Harry Reid, he's just trolling.

Mandingo
Mandingo

The most effective GOP Speakers of the House have been criminals/felons. Tom ' The Hammer" Delay and Dennis Hastert. Seems to me, Paul Ryan is clearly the wrong choice. They should take a good look at some of the Georgia Congressional Delegation.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Mandingo One big problem with your post, Delay was never the speaker and he was exonerated.  But don't worry, we don't expect that much honesty (Hillary for example) from the left.

Claver
Claver

I think Ryan played it right.  Being Speaker diminishes the odds of him being president some day.  No point taking that job if it isn't on his terms.  That said, the partisan in me kind of hopes the FC balks and keeps the Republican House in disarray.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Kyle,


If Ryan does not become speaker because of the freedom caucus, are you willing to admit the how completely stubborn and incompetent the wing of the republican party has become which has catered and nurture this movement of anti-everything.  

lvg
lvg

Ryan's family made their millions and his trust fund on government construction contracts after condemning government handouts in his 2012 romp with Romney.. Ryan voted for unfunded wars and unfunded Medicare drug handouts to get W reelected. He begged for  stimulus funds after lying about his request. He voted for money for the big banks that caused the economic collapse in 2008.  So you think the anarchists and their leaders will give him a gold star and an "atta boy" for all that?

Shar1
Shar1

Your last phrase is the  most important one - "rather than coasting into office on the Republican name".  These men - all but one men, all white - know their electoral math.  Every one of them comes from a gerrymandered district where a minority of the resident Republicans (all Democrats are safe to ignore) in low-turnout primaries are responsible for electing them.  If they did indeed break away and form a separate party they would immediately lose their seats, as any remaining Republican would swamp them.


These are people who mewl, howl and disrupt by standing on a tiny pebble.  They might as well have been put into office by their mothers.  They seek to force the majority - not just of Americans, but a majority of their party and their constituents as well - to accept their farthest leanings, no matter how destructive or unpopular, by threatening and bullying.


They are not Republicans, but fascist anarchists.  They don't believe in the foundations of this country - compromise, respect for others, equal access, fair representation.  The best possible thing would be for the Republicans to force them out, as they would have to rely on general support in their districts, and would find it lacking.

M H Smith
M H Smith

I'm no big fan of Ryan though this time he has painted his opposition on all sides into a corner. 

The gig is up FP 

 

straker
straker

"forming a third party more to their liking.


Excellent idea.


A good litmus test to see just how sincere they really are in their beliefs.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Puppies and kittens that don't play together well.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

Finally you recognize Republican obstructionism for what it is. That's progress.

Caius
Caius

People have run for public office bragging on what they will do when elected.  So people voted for them based on their promises. Then the voters get up set that their main man did not get done what was promised to them.


Who is at fault here?  The person making the promise or the voters who actually believed that one person was going to remake the American government in their image?



Dusty2
Dusty2

Kyle,


Sounds like you got it right.  Republicans need to settle down and get together. We do not need any "third party".  Ryan sounds like a strong personality with good sense.  That is what we need now. A smart strong leader in Congress. 


Too bad liberals forget to talk about the forgettable Hillary much of the time. Oh well,  better for them  to talk about Republicans while Dems don't have enough candidates for the presidency to play a game of Bridge


GO, Paul Ryan, we need you in Congress.  Step up to the plate and give us a homerun.


(Yes, I know.  My beloved BRAVES could not do it often enough.     Sob!.). 

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

@Dusty2 Comparing this years Braves and this years GOP is very enlightened of you.

DMayr
DMayr

This column makes a lot of sense (much like yesterday's; nice work Kyle). I see the gnashing of teeth has begun in earnest over Ryan's demands and whether he'll represent the FC and their puritanical demands. One caveat to all of this: in the spirit of 'governing', many promises to compromise have been made before. And when the rubber met the road, the FC reneged, dug their heels in, obstructed any hope for progress and made life hell for Boehner (Gang of Eight, previous Debt Ceiling implosions, etc.). Time will tell if they're serious about moving America forward or not, and if this doesn't work, it will prove once & for all where the real issue lies.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"If not, their numbers are just large enough to deny the speaker a majority consisting only of Republicans. The most common result is the speaker has had to negotiate with Democrats for a majority, meaning their holdouts lead to less conservative lawmaking rather than more conservative lawmaking. "

Heaven forbid we get legislation for ALL Americans! If the FC has heartburn, the legislation must be good for the country and be bipartisan. If they do not like it, start your own party. This whining and "taking my ball home" when you do not get your way has to stop.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@RoadScholar  , I see that differently.  They won, and they won big enough that they can govern how they want.  That is the will of the American people.  I would probably disagree with what they pass, but I'm in the minority (given the voting). 


They should, however, be able to implement what they want then answer to the American people via elections.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

I guess the 11th commandment is totally out of the window.  Kyle has basically blasted the Freedom Caucus and Trump in the last couple of months. It's about time that the establishment started fighting back. 


The problem is still the talk radio crowd though.  Until you get that dog on a leash, you're going to have problems. It's sad, but talk radio will probably decide this fight which is completely nuts for a major political party.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara You have to ask, who broke the 11th commandment first? And much of the problem with talk radio is those who listen to it uncritically. 

M H Smith
M H Smith

@RoadScholar @Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara 

Because the two groups, REAL Blue Dog Democrats(Social Conservatives) and the so called establishment Republicans (moderates) are the ones who can reach a compromise to move things along. 

The rest call compromise and those who do traitors cowards and turncoats. They stop everything left and right.   

Caius
Caius

@JFMcNamara  I would disagree on the power of talk radio. Limbaugh has been around since the 1988 election and we have yet to have a conservative president since he started talking. He is considered a nuisance by the mainstream Republican Party.

lvg
lvg

George W calls out the demagogue leading the Anarchists by publicly denouncing Cruz just like Boehner did. Kinda like trying to corral and capture a wild  dog.. Time for Mr. Trump to join in and stop bashing W  and  is Cruz going to continue to polish Trump's shoes hoping to grab his wallet and followers if Trump passes out?  Of course Kyle's solution is they all get on stage and sing Kumbaya and prayers to their Saint Ronald who was the messenger of nothing but happy messages and  thoughts.

Already_Older
Already_Older

@lvg And he (Ronald Regan) was just good enough of an actor to make everyone believe it.  So much of this whole world is just based on opinion.  Make everyone believe the sky is falling, everyone becomes scared, and it becomes a self fulling prophesy with the economy.   Likewise, make everyone happy and believe better times are ahead, and the economy rebounds.  There is a lot to be said for someone who can lift the spirits of the American people.