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“Paul Ryan’s Choice; Speaker or Sanity?”: An Intransigent Group, The Far Right Is Already Grumbling About Him

Even as an energetic group of Republicans try to jostle Rep. Paul Ryan into running for House speaker, the fact remains that the Wisconsin Republican would face a perilous situation—essentially the same hostile environment of infighting that John Boehner has had enough of.

Even if Ryan were to swoop in to save the day, the calculations would remain the same: a class of House Republicans that cannot find sufficient internal consensus to govern consistently without crisis. This is something even the most fervent Ryan fans admit.

“You get the honor of making a speech before they tar and feather you every day,” acknowledged Rep. Darrell Issa, even as he spoke at length about how Ryan should run, though he was considering it himself. “He is obviously dealing with the fact that this isn’t the job he asked for, or even wants, but may be a job that the conference needs him to take.”

“It’s very difficult for anyone so long as any group thinks they have veto power and they can hijack and blackmail the House,” added Rep. Peter King of New York, another lawmaker who is urging Ryan to enter the race.

Following a meeting of the Republican conference in the subterranean rooms of the Capitol, Issa indicated that the private conversations inside were dominated by lawmakers encouraging Ryan to run.

“He’s both vetted and has the experience of now chairing not one but two committees. I think what you’re hearing in there is the preparatory work for a more successful Congress once we have a new speaker, but you’re also hearing people universally, or nearly universally asking Paul Ryan to go home over the weekend and reconsider,” Issa said.

Issa also strongly implied that he had talked to Ryan, and that Ryan had agreed to reconsider a bid for the speakership over the next few days.

But there are already signs that if Ryan were to become speaker, he’d still face an intransigent group of unyielding conservatives—the same problem that made the job so unwieldy for Boehner. On conservative blogs, commentators were also pouring cold water on the idea of a Ryan speakership, arguing that Ryan was soft on immigration and criminal justice.

“Paul Ryan Is the Absolute Worst Choice for Speaker,” blared one headline on the conservative website Breitbart.com; “Will Paul Ryan Be the Next Speaker? I Hope Not,” read another, on the Powerline blog.

“I don’t think it’s the face” of the speaker that matters, said Rep. David Brat, the conservative Virginia lawmaker who unseated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “It’s the principle.”

On Friday, less than 24 hours after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made the shocking announcement that he would be abruptly pulling out of the race for speaker, Ryan’s office released a second statement reiterating that he is not running for the position. “Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he’s getting from his colleagues but is still not running for speaker,” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said.

Fundamentally, McCarthy and Ryan have similar voting records—the American Conservative Union gives Ryan a lifetime 90 rating, while McCarthy has a lifetime 88.63. But they do differ in terms of overall force of personality and image: Ryan has forged a reputation as the chairman of two committees, and as the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party in the 2012 elections.

Close friends indicate that the drawback for Ryan is that he has a young family, and hint that his wife is a key voice against a potential candidacy.

When Rep. Trey Gowdy was asked what it would take to get Ryan to become a candidate for speaker, he responded, “You’ll have to ask Janna Ryan that question,” referring to the congressman’s wife.

“Paul is going to have to do some soul-searching and decide whether that’s something he wants to do,” added Rep. Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, October 9, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Insufficiently Conservative”: It Doesn’t Matter Who The Next Speaker Is Because This Is A Permanent Conservative Rebellion

Many Republicans are looking at what’s happening in the House of Representatives right now with something between consternation and horror. The party is tearing itself apart, unable to pick a leader for one of its key institutional bases of power and riven by disagreements that seem unbridgeable.

But you want to know who isn’t upset about all this? The ultra-conservative members who are driving it, not to mention the conservative organizations and media figures who are cheering them on. They’re having a blast.

The most important thing to understand about what’s happening now is that this is a permanent rebellion. It has its demands, both substantive and procedural, but those demands aren’t the point, and if they were met, new ones would be forthcoming. For the people behind the chaos, rebellion itself is the point. It’s about the fight, not about the outcome of that fight. They will never stop rebelling.

That’s why it doesn’t really matter much who actually ends up in the Speaker’s chair. Whoever that Speaker is, he’ll be judged inadequate, not enough of a fighter, too willing to roll over. After all, no matter who he is or what he does (and yes, I’m assuming it will be a man, because there aren’t any viable female candidates at this point), he won’t successfully repeal Obamacare, or send all the illegals away, or slash taxes rates, or outlaw abortion, or pound his gavel until the thunderous vibrations reach down Pennsylvania Avenue and drive that usurper Barack Obama out of the White House and back to Chicago. In the eyes of the rebels, the next Speaker will fail, just like his predecessor did. And the rebellion will have to continue.

Speculation today centers around Paul Ryan, who commands a good deal of respect within the caucus. Though Ryan has said repeatedly that he isn’t interested in being Speaker — he’s now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a powerful position he sought for some time — he is coming under intense pressure from colleagues to accept the post. Here’s how Paul Kane and Robert Costa described the state of affairs this morning:

By mid-afternoon, outgoing speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had spoken to Ryan at least twice, trying to convince the reluctant congressman that he was the only man who could save House Republicans from their self-created chaos.

By day’s end, after hunkering down for two hours in his ceremonial office a few steps from the House floor, after listening to pleas from friends to take the reins of the bitterly divided Republican caucus, he emerged, declining to explicitly state his plans…

As they voted on the House floor late Thursday, Ryan was besieged by his GOP colleagues. As the lawmakers huddled, Ryan aides canceled his fundraising and political events for the next 48 hours, a move interpreted by his friends as a signal that he had gone from a hard “no” to undecided after speaking with Boehner.

The latest statement from Ryan’s office reiterates: “Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he’s getting from his colleagues but is still not running for Speaker.” Of course, this could still change.

The assumption among many is that Ryan could be a unifying figure, the only one who could bring together the fractious caucus. But not only is there no particular reason to think that’s true, his potential candidacy for Speaker is already dividing the party.

Ryan is being promoted by establishment sources like the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the National Review, which in itself is being read by the rebels as a reason to reject him. Influential radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted: “Are they talking abt the same Paul Ryan who once lost a VP debate to JOE BIDEN?” She added, “Chaos? Only if you are bought and paid for by the Establishment. Cathartic for most.” “Paul Ryan Is The Absolute Worst Choice For Speaker,” says Brietbart.com, explaining that he’s really a weakling who’ll knuckle under just like John Boehner did.

The House Freedom Caucus, which has become the center of the rebellion, has a document outlining its current demands in the form of a questionnaire for any potential Speaker, which includes things like not raising the debt ceiling without “significant structural entitlement reforms” (i.e. cutting and restructuring Medicare and Social Security); shutting down the government unless they can defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare, invalidate the Iran deal, and more; and perhaps most importantly, a series of process “reforms” that would take power away from the Speaker to determine how legislation proceeds and distribute it around to all the members of the caucus. They seem to want to ensure not only that the next Speaker is someone disinclined to make compromises with the Senate or the White House, but that he won’t be able to even if he wanted to.

They’re not going to get all that from the next Speaker, which they surely know. But deep down that’s probably okay with them, because in a way, not getting what they want is exactly what they want. They didn’t come to Washington to write legislation and craft policy. They came to fight — to fight Barack Obama, and just as important (if not more so), to fight their own party’s leadership. Many of them won their seats in the first place by either challenging incumbent Republicans who were deemed insufficiently conservative and confrontational, or besting a field of primary contenders by proving they would fight the establishment with more vigor and venom than anyone else. Every defeat only makes them more sure that the answer is to fight harder. This is their purpose. Fighting is energizing, exciting, and inspiring, much more than sitting in some boring subcommittee hearing.

There’s a reason old rebels keep talking about “the revolution” years and decades after they came out of the jungle and stormed the capital. Nothing about the work of governing can match the righteous thrill of the battle against the oppressors. The innovation the tea partiers brought to Washington was that you could get power, but then not bother to figure out how to use it to achieve the policy goals you claim to hold. Instead, you could just keep fighting, so the rebellion never ends. It’s obvious now that’s precisely what they intend to do, no matter who the next Speaker of the House is.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Political War All The Time”: Republicans Turning The American People Into Collateral Damage

There is a time for war and a time for peace, according to the book of Ecclesiastes and The Byrds. In the contest to replace John Boehner as speaker of the House, the Republican candidates chose to sell themselves as full-time political warriors. Forget about the national interest. Their job, as they have framed it, is to smite Democrats.

The security of American diplomats in dangerous places and maintaining America’s promise to pay its debts are a concern to everyone. Sadly, many ambitious Republicans distort the facts surrounding these important matters to fuel their political advancement. In their terms, that means entertaining hard-right voters not tuned in to the big picture. When that happens, governing stops.

Now we are not so naive as to think that a high wall separates governing and politics. But the House speaker needs to know how to avoid political warfare that turns the American people into collateral damage. Boehner understood that much of the time.

One of the aspirants, Jason Chaffetz, vowed to threaten default on the U.S. debt and a government shutdown as a means to yank concessions from Democrats. The Utah Republican’s martial words: “We’re just not going to unilaterally raise the debt limit.”

Huh? Fight over taxes and spending, sure, but compromise America’s reputation for honoring its debts as a negotiating tool? That treats the entire country as a hostage.

After the Republicans’ 2011 debt ceiling outrage, stock prices plunged, and consumer confidence fell through the floor. Standard & Poor’s lowered America’s previously magnificent credit rating. Even though a last-minute fix stopped the horrible from happening, the stunt cost all of us.

Just handing the powerful speaker of the House job to a man suggesting he’d do just that all over again weakens the American economy. If that weren’t sport enough, Chaffetz also backs shutting down the government rather than funding Planned Parenthood.

In promoting his political war skills, the leading contender, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, foolishly blew the cover off Republican motives for their endless investigation into the Benghazi tragedy. You see, Hillary Clinton was secretary of state when a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed at the besieged U.S. Consulate in Libya. Now she’s a strong Democratic candidate for president.

McCarthy said this: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”

What clever fellows they are. So dragging America through the details again and again had little to do with reaching a truth on Benghazi — one of a multitude of calamities tied to the violent chaos in that part of the world. It was all about pushing down Clinton’s poll numbers.

Republicans are understandably sore at McCarthy for making that revealing statement. What’s interesting is why a practiced politician such as McCarthy would say such an impolitic thing.

Perhaps when everything that happens is seen as politics, nothing seems impolitic. McCarthy was on Fox News Channel, where accusations concerning Benghazi (and Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state) go round and round in a mind-numbing loop.

McCarthy may have simply lost track of the fact that there’s a voting public outside of the angry Republican base. He forgot that our officials in Washington have duties beyond obsessing about the next election.

As a final thought, let’s note that other democracies have rules in place to temper political warfare.

In Britain, for example, the speaker of the House of Commons must be nonpartisan. According to Wikipedia, “the Speaker, by convention, severs all ties with his or her political party, as it is considered essential that the Speaker be seen as an impartial presiding officer.”

In America, that’ll be the day.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, October 8, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Governing, House Freedom Caucus, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Gaping Void Of Their Own Making”: No Republican Is Fit, Able, And Willing To Run The House Of Representatives

If House Speaker John Boehner secretly had no intention to resign, and was instead using the threat of retirement to teach Republican House members that they need him—not the other way around—he’s doing a masterful job. But Boehner was engaged in no such ruse, and the Republican Party is drastically worse off as a result.

After making a series of ill-considered remarks over the past week that underscored his unfitness for the job, Boehner’s heir presumptive, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy for the Speakership at a conference meeting Thursday afternoon. McCarthy, who helped recruit a huge class of conservative freshmen ahead of the GOP’s 2010 midterm landslide, had significant support within the conference. But he lacked the trust of a few dozen conservative hardliners, some of whom comprise the House Freedom Caucus, who have grown frustrated with the existing leadership team for its strategic reluctance to use legislative deadlines—especially those governing appropriations and the debt limit—as leverage to seek substantive concessions from Democrats. As doubts about McCarthy’s candidacy grew, it became clear that conservatives would resist a clean succession and fight his election on the House floor. 

This creates a void almost nobody in the House Republican conference is fit, able, or willing to fill. Minutes after McCarthy announced his decision, Representative Paul Ryan, whom most House Republicans consider the only senior member with the skill to bridge strategic divisions in the party, reiterated his absolute unwillingness to run.

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan’s statement read. “Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

The most rational outcome, and the most ironic, would be for Boehner to rescind his own resignation, and to cite the chaos that took hold after his announcement as a reminder that the reactionaries who deposed him are completely lost without his leadership. When the people who threatened to fire you beg you not to quit instead, their bluff has been called.

But Boehner’s decision to resign was almost certainly not a feint. He has vowed to serve as Speaker until a replacement is selected, but not on a permanent basis. Somebody else—a somebody we don’t yet know, and whose motives and capabilities won’t be well understood—will have to emerge to fill the power vacuum. Representative Jeb Hensarling—a wily, far-right Republican from Texas—has played footsie with the idea. As a Boehner surrogate, Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole’s name has been kicked around, too, but he’s probably been too critical of Boehner’s antagonists to easily secure the gavel. None of the plausible candidates enjoys Ryan’s unique mix of support among conservatives and trust among the party establishment. But as willing members with broad support begin to express interest, the leadership race will resume, and the election that was supposed to occur today will be rescheduled.

What’s more clear now than it was two weeks ago—and it was fairly clear back then—is how crucial it is for Boehner to use his numbered days to clear the deck for the next Speaker, and most importantly to increase the national debt limit in advance of an anticipated lapse in borrowing authority early next month. The consequences of a default on the national debt are too high to hand the debt limit to an untested speaker, or to allow Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives to hijack the issue. Boehner has committed, again, to remaining Speaker until a new one is selected. If Boehner hands responsibility for the debt limit over to this crew, instead of increasing it unconditionally while he has control, it’ll be his most reckless, cowardly, shameful moment.

 

Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, John Boehner, Speaker of The House, U. S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“So Many GOP Options”: Anybody Can Grow Up To Be Speaker Of The House!

I suppose it’s as good a time as any to recall that under the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Speaker does not have to be a Member. And so, you get this entirely non-humorous tweet from a Washington Examiner reporter:

He wouldn’t need any OJT, and all the rumors about his infidelities have long been confirmed, right?

But if you’re going to think “outside the box” for a House Speaker, there are other options, too:

Soeaker Carly Fiorina. would finally have that missing item on her resume–you know, remotely relevant qualifications for the presidency–and could symbolize the fact that just because the House GOP is trying to shut down Planned Parenthood and opposes pay equity is no reason to assume there’s any “war on women” going on.

Speaker Bobby Jindal could draw on his past House experience, and he’d have an excuse to leave Louisiana for good!

Speaker Sean Hannity could cut out the middle-men in Fox News/GOP message communications.

Speaker David Koch could cut out the middle-men, period.

So many options! Who else can you think of, dear readers?

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, Newt Gingrich, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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