Will ‘Speaker’ Ryan unite a divided GOP?Bottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, October 29th, 2015
Commentary: Politically Aware
In an attempt to “clean out the barn,” as he put it, outgoing House Speaker John Boehner negotiated a deal that will raise spending, lift the debt ceiling and prevent a government shut down until 2017. Rep. Paul Ryan, who is likely to succeed Boehner as speaker, has attacked the deal.
This does not bode well.
I would have given Ryan the same advice about the Speakership that Rep. Kevin McCarthy apparently took: don’t do it.
Still, I had hope that Ryan might break the hard right’s strangle hold on moderate legislation. With his name circulating as the only potential speaker who could unite Republicans, Ryan showed sensible disinterest. As momentum grew behind the “draft Ryan” movement, he demanded that all factions of the party support him. He appeared poised to extract concessions from the conservative Freedom Caucus that resisted Boehner and McCarthy, including rule changes that would make him harder to oust. I secretly hoped he had met with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, so he could tell the hardliners which Democrats would vote for him, and what it would cost legislatively, if the Republicans didn’t get in line.
Sadly, the prospects of a more functional House have been sliding ever since, and Ryan’s opposition to the budget agreement is just the latest sign. First, he agreed to run without the endorsement of the Freedom Caucus. With an announced “supermajority” of their members supporting him, Ryan will likely have the votes he needs to get the speaker’s gavel, but to run without their official endorsement was a capitulation. Then it became clear that the rule changes were far from settled, including an end to the “vacate the chair” motion that dogged Boehner.
To be fair, Ryan attacked the deal-making process more than the deal, but has now said he will support it. But he should have just thanked Boehner for providing a clean start to his leadership and promised a more inclusive process. To slap Boehner on his way out means Ryan still feels obligated to score points with the members who wanted Boehner gone, along with his commitment to actually governing.
As long as Democrats hold the White House or 41 Senate seats, Ryan will eventually have to negotiate with them. Instead of trying to convince his party to accept that, Ryan is pretending it isn’t true. Thanks to Boehner’s resignation and subsequent deal making, Ryan may not have to upset conservatives until 2017. When he does, however, he has ensured he will face the same choice as Boehner: shut down the government or give up the gavel.
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