How Can Ryan Possibly Believe Trump Should Be President?

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference National Harbor, Maryland, March 3
Republican House speaker Paul Ryan speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference National Harbor, Maryland, March 3 (Gage Skidmore)

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan made headlines on Monday when he said he could no longer defend Donald Trump, his party’s presidential nominee.

But it didn’t take long for commentators to point out that Ryan hadn’t withdrawn his endorsement. So we have the spectacle of the most powerful elected Republican in the country saying he can no longer “defend” his party’s nominee while still supporting the same person to become president of the United States.

Hypocritical? Of course. And for those of us who had high hopes for Ryan, it is profoundly disappointing as well. Read more

Ryan’s Excuse for Supporting Trump Is Embarrassing

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan meets with religious leaders in Washington DC, March 2
Republican House speaker Paul Ryan meets with religious leaders in Washington DC, March 2 (Bread for the World)

House speaker Paul Ryan announced on Thursday that he would after all vote for Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Ryan, the most powerful elected Republican in the country, refused to endorse Trump last month, even after the businessman’s two remaining rivals had suspended their presidential bids.

He had also broken with precedent during the primaries to criticize Trump when the latter proposed to temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the United States. “[This] is not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for,” Ryan said at the time.

Now he maintains that he has “more common ground than disagreement” with Trump.

Ryan writes in a local newspaper in his home state of Wisconsin that private conversations with Trump have convinced him that the New Yorker would support his legislative agenda as president.

Which, if he’s honest, either means Ryan has changed his mind on major issues or Trump told him something different in private than what he says in public. Read more

Ryan Has Long Way to Go to Restore Trust in Politics

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan reads a speech he is about to deliver at the Capitol in Washington DC, March 23
Republican House speaker Paul Ryan reads a speech he is about to deliver at the Capitol in Washington DC, March 23 (Facebook/Speaker Paul Ryan)

Paul Ryan has a long way to go if he wants to restore some civility and trust in American politics.

The Republican House leader implicitly criticized many in his own party this week for playing to voters’ fears and undermining their confidence in the institutions of government.

Ryan called for a more confident America, one in which “we question each other’s ideas vigorously, but we don’t question each other’s motives.”

“People with different ideas are not traitors,” he said. “They are not our enemies.”

You wouldn’t know it listening to some of the louder voices on the right. Read more

Republicans Overpromised (And Some Know It)

Republican House speaker Paul Ryan gives a speech, December 17, 2015
Republican House speaker Paul Ryan gives a speech, December 17, 2015 (Facebook/Speaker Paul Ryan)

Joshua Green suggests at Bloomberg Politics that there may be a realignment going on inside the Republican Party. Mostly working-class voters are fed up with the broken promises of a Washington “establishment,” he argues, and rallying behind presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump who each in their own way promise to radically shake up the system.

Cruz and Trump between them command the support of just one in two Republicans nationwide, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls. Neither man is likely to win the presidential nomination, let alone the presidency.

In the end, more reasonable, middle-class voters will almost certainly decide the general election and probably the Republican nominating contest as well. They always have.

But their control is slipping. Read more

Republicans Push Back Against Trump’s Pessimism

Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin watches his election as speaker of the House of Representatives on television in Washington DC, November 3, 2015
Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin watches his election as speaker of the House of Representatives on television in Washington DC, November 3, 2015 (Facebook/Speaker Paul Ryan)

Listen to their presidential candidates and you may be forgiven for thinking America’s Republicans see only doom and gloom on the horizon. But there are party leaders with a more hopeful message. Read more

Budget Deal Gives Short-Term Relief, No Long-Term Improvement

Democratic senator Patty Murray of Washington state delivers a press conference at the Capitol in Washington DC, February 16, 2012
Democratic senator Patty Murray of Washington state delivers a press conference at the Capitol in Washington DC, February 16, 2012 (Flickr/Senate Democrats)

Democratic and Republican Party negotiators announced that they had reached a budget deal on Tuesday. If their compromise agreement is accepted in both houses of Congress, it could end some of the uncertainty about government spending and taxes that has dampened growth in the world’s largest economy this year.

The chief negotiators, Democratic senator Patty Murray and Republican congressman Paul Ryan, both described the compromise as a step in the right direction during a news conference in Washington DC. “This bill reduces the deficit by $23 billion, it does not raise taxes and it cuts spending in a smarter way,” said Ryan who was his party’s vice presidential candidate in last year’s election.

Party leaders and President Barack Obama quickly signaled their support. “This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise,” the president said in a statement. “But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short sighted, crisis driven decisionmaking to get this done.”

The Murray-Ryan plan raises discretionary spending in the fiscal year 2014 from $967 billion to just over $1 trillion while shifting tens of billions of dollars worth of defense cuts that were planned in previous legislation. It would altogether cut $85 billion in spending, amounting to $23 billion in net deficit reduction.

Mandatory spending, which includes the big health and pension programs that risk becoming unaffordable, isn’t covered under the agreement even if it is budgeted to account for 64 percent of total spending next year.

The cost of entitlements, including the president’s besieged health reform plan, is expected to rise from 9.8 percent of gross domestic product this year to 13.6 percent in 2035. As early as 2025, federal tax revenues could be sufficient to cover only these mandatory spending commitments, even excluding unemployment compensation and leaving nothing for discretionary spending on defense, education and infrastructure.

Republicans have proposed to repeal the president’s health reforms and liberalize state medical care for seniors in order to reduce the rising costs of entitlements. Democrats reject both proposals. They are also unhappy that Tuesday’s compromise does not include an extension in unemployment benefits which are due to expire at the end of this year.

Health, Security Disputes Reveal Republican Divide

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey addresses a press conference in Trenton, October 4, 2011
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey addresses a press conference in Trenton, October 4, 2011 (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

Less than a year after Mitt Romney failed to win the American presidency for the Republican Party, the divide between the party’s centrist establishment and conservative purists has widened. But disputes over health-care and national-security policies do not necessarily break down along ideological lines. The one thing they have in common is that they pit Republicans who can win national elections against those who can’t.

Late last month, the combative Republican governor of New Jersey Chris Christie chastised Kentucky’s senator Rand Paul who had been highly critical of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of American citizens’ communications. Speaking at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, he characterized Rand’s libertarianism as a “very dangerous thought” and urged the legislator to “come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans” of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that inspired counterterrorism policies that libertarians believe infringe on privacy rights.

Rand responded by accusing the New Jersey leader of demanding pork-barrel spending from Washington when his state is actually a net contributor to the federal budget. Christie has also been successful in reducing his state’s deficit, cutting both spending and taxes and introducing school reforms that are popular on the right. Surveys suggest, however, that in spite of his nationwide appeal to both Democrats and Republicans, the party’s activist base mistrusts him, in part because Christie, whose state was devastated by “superstorm” Sandy last year, heralded President Barack Obama’s hurricane reconstruction efforts just before the presidential election.

A fiscal conservative, Christie nevertheless seems more in tune with his party’s hawkish national security wing and is agnostic about gay marriage. Rand, though a libertarian, opposes gay marriage as well as military adventurism abroad.

Like the Christie-Rand feud, an internal split over how best to derail President Obama’s signature health reform law can be seen as a battle between the party’s establishment and newcomers but the ideological division is actually less clear.

The effort to defund the law is spearheaded by “Tea Party” senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee of Florida, Texas and Utah, respectively, who are willing to risk a complete shutdown of the federal government to prevent “Obamacare” from being implemented. Party leaders in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have said little about this strategy — which is bound to fail as Democrats in the Senate, where they have the majority, are highly unlikely to vote for repealing Obama’s defining legislative achievement — probably for fear of alienating conservative voters.

Mitt Romney, who doesn’t have to worry about upsetting voters anymore, did question the strategy in New Hampshire on Tuesday where he said the effort was driven by “emotion” rather than a rational assessment of what’s in the party’s best interests. “I’m afraid that in the final analysis, Obamacare would get its funding, our party would suffer in the next elections and the people of the nation would not be happy,” he said.

His vice presidential candidate in the last election, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, seemed to agree on CBS News’ Face the Nation talk show this weekend, although he chose his words more carefully. “Rather than sort of swinging for the fences and trying to take this entire law out with discretionary spending, I think there are more effective ways of achieving that goal,” he said, after pointing out that the bulk of “Obamacare” spending is mandatory. A government shutdown therefore, which affects only discretionary spending, wouldn’t sink the law altogether.

Ryan’s indisputable fiscal conservatism and strong opposition to the president’s health plan endeared him to Tea Party voters — which was one of the reasons Romney nominated him for the vice presidency. But he is also an experienced legislator, unlike Cruz, Lee and Rubio, who recognizes the pitfalls of putting ideology before party interests.

Ryan isn’t any less a conservative for refusing to sign up to a losing strategy. He voted for dozens of laws that would have defunded “Obamacare” — which all stranded in the Senate. Republicans will only ever undo the health law if they retake control of the upper chamber and preferably the presidency as well.

The real divide between the likes of Christie and Ryan on the one hand and Cruz, Lee, Rand and Rubio on the other isn’t so much one of ideology as one of realism. The former realize they have to win national elections to govern conservatively whereas the latter prioritize ideological purity over electoral success. Hardline Republican voters may sympathize with the latter but it doesn’t do them any good.

Except for major wins in the House of Representatives in 2010, Republicans have lost three out of the last four last elections. Someone like Christie could reverse that trend in 2016, even if the highly popular former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ candidate. Cruz, Rand and Rubio, who are all rumored to have presidential aspirations of their own, won’t.