The election of a new speaker brings about feelings of hope and change.
Paul Ryan’s election as speaker is supposed to heal the bitterly divided House Republicans and improve relations with Senate Republicans. With the budget and debt ceiling deals passed before his election, one would think that Ryan has a pretty easy speakership ahead of him.
Unfortunately for him, being two heartbeats away from the Presidency is not an easy job, nor is it meant to be.
Ryan faces two major challenges during his speakership, the first of which is managing the House.
The speaker helps set the calendar for what legislation gets a vote. Typically, the speaker’s party is unified and can present a clear agenda for the House.
Ryan is commanding a House with antagonistic divisions. The House Republican caucus is split between pragmatists and the ideological Tea Party.
Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, would have been considered a pragmatist because of his tendency to make coalitions with the Democrats to get legislation passed.
The Tea Party, on the other hand, is renowned for their propensity to block legislation on ideological grounds. Sinking the country’s credit rating just to prove a point has already been done by the Tea Partiers.
These two factions have enough animosity between each other to slow down the legislative process to a crawl. Getting the votes to pass is a leviathan task now. The speaker has to either cave in to the Tea Party’s demands or reach across the aisle for Democratic votes.
This process further inflames relations between the two Republican factions, and the cycle begins again.
It is imperative for Ryan to get the House of Representatives functioning again. The approval of Congress is well within single digits, and the American people are sick of the do-nothing legislature.
It is possible that Republicans could lose their majority if Congress doesn’t clean up its act in the 2016 election. Riding on the coattails of the presidential candidate, the Democrats have an opportunity to sweep into power like they did in 2008.
The second problem for Ryan is relations with the presidency. The Speaker of the House strives to have a functional relationship with the president.
Boehner had a functional relationship with President Barack Obama to get essential legislation passed. In the 1980s, Tip O’Neill, a liberal Democrat, worked with President Ronald Reagan. The Speaker has to keep a cordial relationship with the president to see legislation passed, and this requires compromising.
Ryan can either follow the tradition of many speakers and work toward compromises,or take an ideological stand. As displayed by his announcement on immigration policy, Ryan may be leaning toward the ideological side.
Ryan stated that he will not work with Obama on the immigration issue and is putting off the discussion until 2017. That’s fine and dandy for appealing to Trump supporters, but it doesn’t actually fix the immigration problem.
One can look up the Senate archives and find many Republican senators that support some kind of immigration reform, and that is preferable to Ryan’s “delay until Obama goes away” tactic. What if a Democrat wins the election in 2016? Is Ryan going to delay legislation until 2021?
If Ryan is going to be a successful speaker, he is going to have to compromise and work with the president. Even if a Republican wins the White House, they might not be from the same ideological faction as Ryan. He will have to put away his ideological fantasies, like privatizing Medicare, and put on his pragmatic hat.
If he does not, Speaker Ryan may receive praise from his ideological sect but condemnation from the rest of America for promoting more gridlock.
It makes it hard to accept his plea for family time, when the speaker cannot do his job and works only the days per week but votes against family leave for the rest of the American people who work 40 hours per week.
To be the Speaker of the House and second only to the vice president in the chain of succession, one must be dedicated to public service and willingly put the needs of the country over their own.
I think Paul Ryan has a ways to go on that, but for the country’s sake, I hope he grows into the pragmatism of the job. The country is too sick of gridlocked government for ideological theatre. America needs a Speaker that will get Congress moving again.
The views expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Hunter Balczo at email@example.com.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this!”
This foreboding line, repeated across Star Wars films by legends of galactic notoriety such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo, may have become the unofficial go-to pop culture reference for the Grand Old Party.
When the final polling stations shut down Nov. 4, 2008, this was the general sentiment. In 2012, when presidential candidate Mitt Romney said 47 percent of the electorate would vote for the incumbent anyway, this quote could have easily accompanied his PR team’s collective grimace.
The ongoing success of candidates Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump in this cycle are perplexing to the Republican establishment, and the proverbial “bad feeling” reverberates though Washington.
The race to replace Speaker of the House John Boehner has been no exception. The go-to choice, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, dropped out, leaving the field open to the party’s leading personalities like Trey Gowdy and Paul Ryan, who both declined to run.
When the far right Freedom Caucus, a group of mostly Tea Party members, presented Daniel Webster of Florida as their candidate, the establishment and other, more moderate wings of the party rushed to present a more palatable alternative.
Out of the ashes rose Ryan’s presumed dead campaign for the speakership. In less than a week, he received endorsements from Gowdy, Boehner and the Freedom Caucus, laid out the ground rules and goals of Ryan speakership, and easily won the seat.
If this path can be seen as easy, the extra-Congressional response to Ryan’s meteoric ascension to party dominance has been anything but.
Believing, perhaps correctly, that their actions had forced Boehner to resign, members of the Freedom Caucus saw this race as an opportunity to raise a more conservative leader to prominence.
Perceiving Ryan as a threat to this end, members of the caucus and of the far-right media, like Representative Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Rush Limbaugh, began their overzealous critique of Ryan’s conservative credentials.
More level-headed critics had a “bad feeling” about Ryan’s address to the House after he was voted into office. Looking for specific procedural reforms, they were unimpressed with his general commitment to common-sense conservative policy and streamlining the legislative process.
Ultra-conservative elements attacked Ryan’s voting record, as well as some compromises he oversaw as the head of the budget committee.
Emboldened by the apparent success of presidential candidates who scoff at the very existence of compromise in the House, pundits and representatives in this faction have gone so far as to suggest a non-member speakership, a move unprecedented since the introduction of the U.S. Congress in 1789.
Names ranging from radio host Mark Levin to Ryan’s 2012 presidential running mate Mitt Romney were mentioned as contenders. The notion being even more radical than a far-right speakership, these suggestions never caught the eye of papers or tabloids looking for a juicy story.
Since his election, Ryan has spent his days attempting to navigate the rifts in his majority.
In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, he unequivocally stated his long-held belief that not one “red cent” should go to fund Planned Parenthood, a nod to party members on his right.
In the same breath, he made clear that on this issue, Republicans are the opposition party and “being an effective opposition party means being honest with people upfront about what it is we can and cannot achieve,” according to a realist statement which discredits the Freedom Caucus and surely provides more moderate Representatives with some comfort.
Although one critic referred to Ryan as a “Boehner with better abs,” Ryan is unlike recent speakers. He does not own a home in Washington, D.C., meaning he spends his late session nights in his office, which, according to the man himself, smells horribly of smoke.
Any man willing to spend enough time in his office to want to fumigate it is obviously the kind of dedicated public servant the House desperately needs in leadership. This little-known fact also puts into perspective his ultimatum concerning his family time. He should get it because he will earn it.
It is more than a bit paradoxical that the man necessary for unity in the Republican House has caused so much disruption up to this point.
What right-wingers saw as a chance for regime change may not have yielded the intraparty revolution they desired. The party has found in Ryan a unifying figure who will both investigate the scandals, constitutional tresspasses and overreach brought to his attention by watchdog conservatives, and do so with objectivity and poise, without making promises he can’t keep.
Paul Ryan is the perfect synthesis of the realist Lindsey Graham, idealist Ted Cruz and diplomatic John Kasich-like elements of the Republican party on display in the race for the White House. Finding a Ryan-like candidate in that race could be the winning formula the party has been looking for.
I’m feeling better already.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Jacob Schlosser at firstname.lastname@example.org.