Boehner tried to ‘clean out the barn’ for Ryan, but key issues remain

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Boehner tried to ‘clean out the barn’ for Ryan, but key issues remain.

John A. WASHINGTON • Mr Paul Ryan, 45, who was elected in a celebratory Capitol Hill pageant as the 54th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, is the youngest to grip the gavel since the late 1860s.

He now confronts a fundamental question: Will his new post provide a platform to pursue his bold visions for a renewed America, or will those big ideas weigh him down in an era defined by confrontation and small-bore compromises? But he could not pull that off completely while also passing a sweeping budget deal, so as Boehner exits, he leaves behind several key issues that will test Ryan’s leadership style and determine whether he will have any more success in wrangling the GOP caucus than Boehner did.

By Nov. 20, Congress must act on the expiring authority for the federal highway program, an issue that also could lead to another flare-up of the expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s authority to issue new loan guarantees. After that comes the Dec. 11 deadline for filling in all of the agency-by-agency details of spending plans, a process that was made easier because this week’s budget framework resolved the larger fight over the top-line dollar figure but defers intricate fights over funding levels for hot-button issues. Recent experience, including the success of Democrats in blocking all of Mr Ryan’s sweeping budget proposals, suggests that he will continue to harbour expansive aspirations but will have little choice but to set more modest goals.

So, while the nameplates outside the speaker’s office formally flipped Friday morning, many of the same fights that led the most conservative faction to cause trouble for the old speaker remain in place for the new one. “I think there’s a chance that part of the government will be shut down if Ryan can’t control these 50 or 60 people,” Sen. He not only faces the realities of divided government, at least for the next 14 months, but also must try to repair the deep fractures among House Republicans – a point that he acknowledged in his opening remarks: “The House is broken. We are adding to them.” During Thursday’s ceremonies, as Mr Ryan made his way to the rostrum and an emotional hug with his weepy predecessor John Boehner, there was grim recognition that his ascent stemmed from the chaos in the ranks of his party’s majority.

Ryan, and all serious thinkers, would do well to familiarize themselves with the writings of Debora Spar, Barnard College president, particularly her recent book “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.” That book deals with the issue of whether women can have it all. A cluster of hardline rank-and-file Republican conservatives who forced the departure of Mr Boehner have been demanding that Mr Ryan carry out an array of changes in House rules to empower individual lawmakers. Representative Raul Labrador, one of the leaders of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, said: “We’re cautiously optimistic that he’s going to change the way we’re doing things here, and we’re going to give him a chance.” While Mr Boehner, 65, came into the job as a seasoned leader who tried unsuccessfully to appease Tea Party members, Mr Ryan, who was the Republican Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012, represents a new generation. Friday in the Senate, also set for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 the combined spending limits for federal agencies, providing $80 billion in relief for the military and non-defense agencies. His experience on the national stage was recalled by the two guests behind his family: former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his wife Ann.

Democrats were poised to typecast Mr Ryan as a big-thinking public servant with fine talking points who will ultimately fall back on the trickle-down economics of the Reagan era that they say will help neither the poor nor the middle class. “A Budget is supposed to be a statement of values about our country,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said. “So it will be interesting to see if now, in the position of Speaker, if those will still be his priorities and, if so, we welcome the debate on the substance.” While Republicans praise Mr Ryan as perhaps their party’s best “ideas man”, some colleagues said that when Mr Ryan was afforded his best chance to potentially advance sweeping fiscal reforms – as a member in 2010 of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a bipartisan panel – he ultimately chose partisan politics and Republican unity over a potentially far-reaching compromise. For now, Ryan is focusing on “redesigning” the way the House works, as he put it in a Friday interview with his home-state media. “I don’t think this job would work if you just picked up where John Boehner left off,” he said, noting the many clashes the former speaker had with elements of the GOP conference.

The question is whether this group of roughly 40 hard-line conservatives is ready to extend a period of goodwill on the issues immediately in front of Ryan so that the focus can remain on internal reforms rather than ideological clashes in the near term. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a close friend and now top lieutenant of Ryan’s, argued after Ryan’s swearing-in that there would be a honeymoon period that would allow the immediate issues to be resolved, including the so-called omnibus spending bill that must pass by Dec. 11. “We’re going to do a highway bill, we’ll get there.

You’ve got to do an omni, and then you start the approps process,” McCarthy told reporters, referring to the funding bills for next year that will be drawn up by the Appropriations Committee. The generational shift — Boehner is 65, Ryan is 45 — is important in building trust with a group of House Republicans that largely come from Ryan’s generation and have not spent much time in Washington. “Paul and I have worked together as a team, when we were in the minority to gain the majority. There is a bond and a friendship there that makes me excited about going to work.” Democrats, however, are issuing warnings that they will not accept any controversial policy riders on the catch-all spending bill, such as restrictions on funding for Planned Parenthood or President Obama’s executive actions on climate policy or immigration.

Democrats say the fights ahead could resemble the showdown earlier this year when the rest of the federal government was fully funded for the year but there was a near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security.

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