With the retirement of John Boehner, brought about by the Tea Party or otherwise, Paul Ryan will be the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. At his election on October 29, 2015 he received a majority of Republican votes to become Speaker.
The 44 year old Ryan has been in Congress since 1999. He is from Wisconsin’s First District and became Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee in early January of 2015. Prior to that he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee, from January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2015.
From what I understand he was not anxious to have this position since it has traditionally been a dead-ended one. Historically no one has gone on from it to become President of the United States. It would seem that since Ryan ran in 2012 as Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate he has been looking toward eventually running for the presidency.
Next to the Speaker the Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee is the most powerful position in the House as that Committee both makes the committee choices and writes the agenda for all the meetings of the House of Representatives.
Ryan did not originally want the Speakership because up until this point it has been an almost impossible job. The Republicans in the House of Representatives, all 247 of them, meet as a single caucus generally before the entire House meets to conduct actual business. But in addition to this the Republicans also meet in three smaller specific caucuses. On the ultra-right are 30 Tea Party members, the Freedom Caucus, who have generally voted on all issues exactly the same. Then there is the far-right Republican Caucus and finally the extreme-right caucus.
Up until Wednesday, October 28, 2015 the Speaker of the House could never depend on the Freedom Caucus and some of the other members of the overall Republican Caucus to put through necessary legislation. On some occasions he even had to negotiate with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Minority Leader, in order to get necessary legislation passed. This situation had existed since the 2011 Congressional session when he was first elected Speaker.
This behavior of dealing with Democrats to a large number of Republican members on the far right, like the Freedom Caucus, has been a betrayal of Republican principles. In addition the former Speaker, John Boehner, once played a game of golf with President Barak Obama. This was an unforgivable sin to the members of the Freedom Caucus.
In order to not shut down the Federal Government former Speaker Boehner in late September resigned, effective the end of October, and got a bill passed with Democratic help that funded the Government through December. Apparently he felt he had to do this in order to not shut down the Federal Government by having the Republicans refuse to fund it over the issue of funding Planned Parenthood.
On Wednesday, October 28, 2015 former Speaker Boehner, after negotiating with the leaders of the Senate and the President, got another bill through the House raising the Debt Limit for the next two years. Without this new bill the Federal Government would not have been able to spend money after November 3, 2015.
Ryan’s major upcoming task will be to pass legislation through the House of Representatives that would allow the Federal Government to pay its bills after the middle of December. I would assume that this bill is one of the conditions of Paul Ryan accepting the Speakership. However a large number of Republicans are dedicated to the idea of doing away with the subsidy to Planned Parenthood. They might still insist on this in December.
President Obama has stated that if this is done he will veto the bill and there are not enough Republicans in either House to override his veto. He has also stated that he will veto any future short term solution to this problem. Even with promises from his caucus of all the Republicans this bill will apparently be the new Speaker’s big test. If he needs Democratic help to get the bill passed Paul Ryan will continue his speakership on the same level as John Boehner suffered through.
With Boehner’s resignation and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Whip not being able to get the votes needed, Paul Ryan seemed to be the only member of the House of Representatives who might be able to secure a large enough majority of Republican support to get elected. He apparently didn’t really want the job but was probably later convinced that no one else could get enough votes to be elected Speaker. And with no Speaker the House of Representatives couldn’t meet.
In the end Ryan set conditions under which he would accept the position. It would seem that the Freedom Caucus and others also had conditions. All these were negotiated leading to, among other things, rule changes in running the House of Representatives. One apparent rule was that nothing would be brought to the floor of the House that did not have a majority of Republican support. Another was that Ryan would spend his weekends with his family instead of raising money for the Republican Party. There was also a rule, propagated by the Freedom Caucus, allowing an individual lawmaker to force a vote ousting the speaker at any time. Obviously there were other changes that we will learn about later on.
When he announced his candidacy for the Speaker’s job Ryan said he wanted endorsements from all three Republican Caucuses. This should guarantee he will emerge as the unity candidate of the House Republicans. He doesn’t want to risk being in the middle of the intraparty unrest under which former Speaker Boehner lived in since 2011. The Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, fell short of a formal endorsement since that would have required 80% agreement. The group was not able to achieve this level, but Ryan accepted their majority vote as a show of Republican unity.
What will happen? That’s a good question.
It is important to remember that Paul Ryan, when he ran with Mitt Romney as his Vice Presidential candidate, was considered by many to be the most conservative Vice Presidential candidate to run for that office since the turn of the 20th Century.
Originally he was a follower of Ayn Rand, who in her few books, particularly in “Atlas Shrugged,” advocated extreme individualism with the masses being an unfeeling horde. He grew up with these beliefs, to the point of making his staff read her books. This persisted from his teen years, when he discovered her writing, until April 2012 when he was criticized by the Georgetown University faculty. At that time, being a good Catholic he rejected her philosophy as being “atheistic.” He called the reports of his advocating Rand’s perspective an “urban legend,” (Whatever that means.) and stated that he was strongly influenced by his Roman Catholic faith and by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
There are numerous other instances where Paul Ryan suddenly totally changed his position. It seems that his attitudes were flexible, changing with the needs of the time. It would appear that in August 2012, soon after Romney choose him as his VP, that the Tea Party wanted a nominee other than Romney. It had gotten one of its ideological heroes in second place.
Ryan voted for the two Bush tax cuts in 2001 and in 2003. He supported the 2003 bill that created the Medicare Part D, prescription drug benefit and the $700 billion bank bailout. He was one of the 32 Republicans in the House to vote for the auto industry bailout. In the past conservative commentators have criticized Ryan for deficit causing policies during the George W. Bush administration.
Paul Ryan existence became public knowledge over his financial plans or Ryan budgets. His proposals outlined negative changes to entitlement spending that, among other things, would replace Medicare with a voucher program for those under the age of 55. This 2008 bill never made it out of committee. In 2009 he introduced a bill that in addition to his earlier one would impose a five year freeze on all discretionary spending. It would also allow taxpayers, if they so choose, to opt out of the Federal Income Tax system and pay a flat 10% income tax on adjusted gross incomes up to $100,000 for couples and $50,000 for singles. Any earnings above this amount would be taxed at 25%. The bill was rejected in the Democratic controlled House by a vote of 293 to 137, with 18 Republicans in opposition.
In 2010 he released a modified version of his earlier bills. He has released spending bills just about every year. All of them cut entitlement spending and will supposedly balance the Federal Budget in about a decade. In 2015 the same pattern is followed with even deeper entitlement cuts. The overall evaluation is that his budget proposals would increase middle-class taxes while cutting taxes for the upper percentile of the population. In terms of balancing the budget in ten years they are all wishful thinking.
It is worth noting that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has been highly critical of Ryan’s budget proposals, stating that they would shift income to the wealthy while increasing poverty and inequality.
Ryan in 2004 and 2005 got the Bush administration to propose privatization of Social Security. He’s a supporter of private school vouchers. In 2011 Ryan supported using the federal debt ceiling as leverage to reduce Federal spending.
Paul Ryan has described himself as being “as pro-life as a person gets.” He has co-sponsored 18 bills in the Congress that restrict abortions. He believes that all abortions should be illegal, including those resulting from rape or incest, and he only makes an exception in cases where the woman’s life is at risk.
Ryan has recommended that Medicaid be converted into block grants with the Federal Government’s share of the cost being cut by $800 billion over the next ten years. Medicaid is administered by the individual states under a strong level of Federal control. The problem with a blanket block grant is that there is no control over how the state will use the money. Block grants in the past have often been used for other purposes than for what they were issued.
In his 1998 campaign for the House of Representatives Ryan expressed his willingness to allow states to criminally prosecute women who have abortions. He would let each state decide on the extent of the penalties.
In 2009 he cosponsored the Sanctity of Life Act, which would provide that fertilized eggs ”shall have all the legal and Constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood” and would have given Congress, …the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.”
Ryan has voted against continued federal aid for Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning programs. The partial funding of these programs were originally signed into law by the Republican President, Richard M. Nixon. Ryan supported legislation that would impose criminal penalties for doctors who perform partial birth abortions. He opposed the government paying for over the counter emergency contraceptive pills. He also opposed same sex marriage and had supported a constitutional amendment that would ban it.
Paul Ryan has supported the rights of gun owners and opposed stricter gun control measures. He voted against a bill for stronger background checks and is for purchases at gun shows.
Originally Ryan supported legislation that would have allowed some illegal immigrants to apply for temporary guest worker status. This included a bill that would provide a pathway to permanent residence status. More recently Ryan has adopted a firm anti-amnesty enforcement stance on illegal immigration. He voted against the Dream Act which was a bill that would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children if they mainly attend college or serve in the military.
Ryan does not believe in climate change; he accuses climatologists of using “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He has criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Ryan also supports a ten year $40 billion tax break for the petroleum industry and has proposed cutting funding for renewable energy research and subsidies.
He has made recommendations to enact cuts to welfare, child care, Pell grants, and several other federal assistance programs like food stamps and housing aid. His argument being that these program serve as an incentive for the poor not having to work.
In 2001 and 2004 he voted to end the embargo in Cuba. Later Ryan reversed his position and since 2007 he has voted for maintaining the embargo. He called Obama’s 2009 “reset” of relations with Russia as “appeasement.
He voted for sequestration in 2013, across the board cuts in almost all government programs, because President Obama and the Democrats would voluntarily refuse to cut discretionary (nonmilitary) programs. This is a ten year program that automatically make significant cuts every year unless Congress passes specific legislation to stop some of it.
This is the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, the man who has replaced former Speaker John Boehner. He was overwhelmingly elected to his new position. He received 238 out of 247 Republican votes. Nine Republicans, apparently from the Freedom Caucus, did not vote for him; they apparently felt he was not conservative enough. Ryan needed 218 votes to be elected. If he can maintain that majority he will not need Democratic help to get legislation through.
The question arises as to how he will lead. He’s been a bit of a chameleon in the past, sometimes changing his position to adhere to the party line. If he continues in this mode there will be another Federal Government Shutdown before the 2016 Presidential Election. But if he acts more moderately will he retain the overall support of all his fellow Republicans in the House? Which position will he adhere to?
In December he still has to fund the Federal Government. At the beginning of January the remaining sequestration cuts automatically go into effect unless Congress passes a bill(s) and the President signs it/them. The military aspect of the problem has been solved with the current bill that squeaked through Congress at the end of September that raised the Debt Limit for two years and also funded the military.
Paul Ryan, the 54th House Speaker, in his acceptance speech, stated that: “Let’s be frank. The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.”
“If there were ever a time for us to step up, this would be that time. The cynics will scoff and say it’s not possible. But you better believe we are going to try. We will not duck the tough issues.”
Will any other needed legislation come into being? Since the midterm Election of 2014, when the Republicans gained a slight majority in the Senate (54 Republicans to 44 Democrats and 2 Independents) the Republican dominated Congress has accomplished almost nothing.
The new debt ceiling bill was passed by Boehner with heavy Democratic support, thus “cleaning the barn” in Boehner’s words. If Ryan has to also use the Democrats he will alienate a lot of Republican House members. It should be interesting and possibly depressing to find out what will happen!
- Bill Maher Lays Waste To Republican Predictions Of Doom And Gloom Under Obama (crooksandliars.com)