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The Daily 202
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in the Capitol yesterday (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By James Hohmann


Paul Ryan is seriously considering a bid for House speaker. He’s consulting his wife Janna and should make a definitive decision soon, according to top GOP sources.

Despite repeatedly and sincerely insisting he doesn’t want the job, the Wisconsin congressman is under intense and increasing pressure from all corners of the House Republican Conference to assume a position that puts him second in the presidential line of succession.

That includes public support from Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader who shocked Washington by abruptly withdrawing from the speaker’s race yesterday, and private support from John Boehner, who had two long phone conversations with Ryan after the McCarthy bombshell. The current speaker told Ryan that he’s the only person who can now unite the House GOP.

Republicans have their largest House majority since 1930, but they are struggling to use it because of persistent internecine warfare. Ryan may not be able to solve the underlying divide between the pragmatists and ideologues, but there is consensus from Joe Scarborough to Bill O’Reilly that he’s got a better chance than pretty much everyone else.

How Ryan got from “no” to “no comment”: The Ways and Means Committee chairman issued a statement reiterating that he would not run within 20 minutes of McCarthy’s announcement. But he began wavering as the day went on. In the afternoon, Ryan’s aides canceled all of his fundraising and political events for the next 48 hours. The Wisconsin Republican was scheduled to speak downtown last night at a book party for a new biography of Jack Kemp, but he didn’t show.

At 6:30 p.m., Ryan emerged from his ceremonial office a few steps from the House floor and declined to state his plans. “I’ve got no news for you guys,” Ryan said, exiting the Capitol. “I’ve got nothing to add right now. … This is not the time or place, guys.” He added, “You guys are asking all these interesting questions but I don’t have any interesting answers for you right now.”

Ryan was set to give the nominating speech for McCarthy yesterday morning; last night, McCarthy endorsed Ryan for the job instead: “I think (Paul) is the best one to bring us together,” McCarthy told The Post’s Robert Costa, who also broke the news about Boehner calling Ryan. “Paul Ryan has the cachet. They know of his brain work, they know he has a national following. He just has the respect.”

Kevin McCarthy, with wife Judy, explains his decision to withdraw from the Speaker’s race. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)


Why he says he doesn’t want the speaker’s gavel: The congressman claims that the burdensome schedule, including the demands of traveling the country to raise money, would make it harder for him to spend weekends with his three school-age children living in Janesville, Wisc. That, of course, did not stop him from accepting the job of Mitt Romney’s running-mate when his kids were three years younger than they are now…And it’s not like his current job is a cake walk. He still does quite a lot of dialing for dollars.

What’s really behind this Hamlet act: Taking the job requires that Ryan gamble his political future on his own ability to break the fever gripping House Republicans. Though he’s been in Congress for 17 years, Ryan is only 45-years-old. That means he has another two or three decades on the national stage, if he plays his cards right. Ryan wants to take the lead in writing tax reform with the next Republican White House. He’s also never actually held an elected leadership position, so it’s not clear that he can herd cats; he likes to devise policy, something that’s not really part of the speaker’s job description.

Ryan could still run for president again down the road, whether 2020, 2024 or even 2032. Remember: Bob Dole was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1976, returned to the Senate after losing and didn’t win the GOP nomination until 20 years later. Ryan could also easily become the next Treasury secretary. If he becomes speaker, he puts all of that at risk. He could alienate the right and get deposed. He could be ineffective. And no matter what, he will be more closely identified with Washington dysfunction. It would be impossible to ever run as an “outsider” again.

Only one Speaker has ever gone on to become president: James K. Polk. Repeating that feat seems impossible in modern-day politics.

Who knows how long Ryan could last, even if he made few self-inflicted errors. Tip O’Neill was the last speaker to retire in good standing and entirely on his own terms. That was three decades ago.

Ryan benefits from a track record of self-discipline: After Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl announced his retirement in May 2011, there was pretty heavy pressure on Ryan to run for the open seat. He took a pass, upsetting some conservatives in the Badger State. But the move paid off handsomely: a little over a year later, he was his party’s vice presidential nominee. If he’d run for the upper chamber, not only would most Americans not know Ryan’s name but he could have lost to Tammy Baldwin.

— CAN RYAN RESIST A GROWING CHORUS OF VOICES ACROSS THE GOP URGING HIM TO GET IN? For now, playing hard to get is only whipping conservative thought leaders and lawmakers into a bigger frenzy. For the good of the party and the country, as they say…

National Review has two unnamed Republican sources saying that Ryan has in fact “already made up his mind to jump in” the race. “The only Republican who does not want Paul Ryan to become the next House speaker, it seems, is Paul Ryan,” Rich Lowry, Joel Gehrke and Alexis Levinson write. “Ryan is the only member of the Republican conference who it seems could command broad support. He is the undisputed intellectual leader of the group and, as a former vice-presidential nominee, has proven that he can survive — and thrive — in the glare of the national spotlight.”

Other conservative commentators expressed confidence that he will enter the race:



The Wall Street Journal editorial board declares this morning that “Ryan might be the only man who can stop GOP self-destruction,” warning that Democrats might even retake the House if he does not rise to the occasion: “Working with a Republican President in 2017, he would be a consequential Speaker. In a more high-profile role, he could also better steer Republicans away from the anti-growth economics that is on the rise as the Trump-Cruz faction turns not merely against immigration but also free trade and entitlement reform.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough says Ryan does not have a choice but to run: “I think for this time and this place, not only for the Republican party but also the conservative movement that can’t afford to lose the White House, Paul Ryan will have to step up. … At the end of the day, it is a question of: do you trust the person that’s leading you not to make quick deals just so they won’t have negative articles in the New York Times opinions page? There is not another person like Paul that can step up and step into this position at this point in time. I really don’t think he has much of a choice.”

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly says “Ryan has got to wise up and get in there.” On the air, he said: “Everybody else who is going to be considered: A) The public doesn’t know them. B) There is an ideological bent here, which doesn’t do anybody any good because you want to pass laws, right? You don’t want to make policy because that is what happens at the other levels.” Video via Breitbart.

Senior National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru says Ryan has enough credibility with the base: “Many of the Republicans who were against Boehner and McCarthy would listen to him, and trust him to listen to them,” he writes in a Bloomberg View column. “They sometimes disagree with him, but they trust that he is in politics because of conservative ideas. No other House Republican has the same reservoir of goodwill. No other House Republican is considered as good a spokesman on such politically perilous issues as entitlement reform. That’s why, with him absent from the race, Republicans have no clear path forward.”

The American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein, an establishment hater, says Ryan has proven he has the backbone to stand up to President Obama: “Now some of you might say, ‘Hey! He supported Kevin McCarthy for Speaker!’ … Yet let us not forget the look on Obama’s face when Ryan explained health care policy to him at the Health Care Summit in February 2010. … Although we don’t have a parliamentary system here in the United States, when the party that controls Congress is different from the party that controls the White House, Congress has to become an official opposition of sorts. If we did have a parliamentary system in this country and Republicans chose a leader of the official opposition, I think Ryan would be best suited to this task.”

Talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: 



Support from a fellow Badger Stater: 



REALITY CHECK – Despite the draft effort, Ryan could still quickly run into a base buzz saw. Paul Mirengoff on the influential Powerline blog writes that, on non-budgetary issues: “It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish Ryan from a bleeding-heart liberal.” He attacks him for supporting comprehensive immigration and criminal justice reform: “To the extent that House conservatives remain committed to fighting against amnesty and to sustaining the sentencing rules that helped produce a 50 percent reduction in the national rate of serious crime in the past two decades, they should be more opposed to Ryan than they are to the current leaders.”

Others noted Ryan’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, which some on the hard-core right are now calling ObamaTrade: 



— WHAT IF RYAN DOESN’T RUN? Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster are both still in the race, but neither is taken seriously as a front-runner. Costa has more on the state of play:

  • Several conservatives suggested House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a former member of the Boehner leadership team, as a contender. For his part, Hensarling is publicly backing Ryan.
  • Other names mentioned are Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chair of the Benghazi committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), head of the House Freedom Caucus. But Gowdy also said he is backing Ryan and Jordan said he doesn’t want the job.
  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who preceded Chaffetz as chairman of the Oversight Committee, was also said to be considering a bid.
  • Establishment-aligned forces floated Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected former House GOP campaign chairman, as a calming presence.
  • Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said he is considering a run and told a group of colleagues in a conference call that his experience in the state legislature prepared him.
  • Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who were already running for lower leadership spots should McCarthy have ascended, were encouraged to seek the speakership but seem inclined to stay put.
  • Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) also mulled his options. So did Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the party’s highest-ranking woman, and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.). But they don’t seem ready to make the leap.

Daniel Webster speaks to reporters after leaving the nomination meeting yesterday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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