Oh my: Rumors on the Hill that Paul Ryan might quit as Speaker

No, no, this isn’t related to Pervnado. Good lord, at least I hope not. Can you imagine the disillusionment if our boy-scout Speaker of the House got taken down for whipping it out or grabbing asses at the office, or worse? It’d be like finding out Tom Hanks was part of some Weinstein-run child-trafficking ring. We need a few Jimmy Stewart types left to run things as the rest of America’s powerful men drown in sleaze.

Besides, no woman is going to excite Paul Ryan as much as the thought of tax cuts does and he’s tantalizingly close to fulfilling his fantasy. That, not anything salacious, is why House GOPers are whispering about him possibly stepping down. They’re on the brink of passing tax reform, the thing he was born to do. He’s about to summit Everest.

Once he’s up there, what’s left to do but come down?

“There’s a whole lot of rumors and speculation that the speaker may step aside,” one GOP member told HuffPost this week, a sentiment that was expressed by a number of Republicans who, perhaps tellingly, wouldn’t go on the record to speak about Ryan’s future…

When the House Freedom Caucus gathered Monday night, members spent part of their meeting discussing a theory circulating on Capitol Hill and among the downtown Christmas parties that Ryan may believe he’s harpooned his personal white whale of tax reform and decide he’s finished.

“Is it a Boehner-meeting-the-pope moment?” one Freedom Caucus member rhetorically asked HuffPost, referring to Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner (R-Ohio), who hosted Pope Francis for a joint address to Congress in September 2015 and then announced his retirement the next morning.

A dark possibility floated by HuffPost: What if Ryan decides to go out with a bang by passing a bunch of highly unpalatable legislation? Under normal circumstances a package involving a debt-ceiling hike and — gulp — some form of amnesty would be dead on arrival among House Republicans. Ryan wouldn’t even bring it to the floor. But if he’s about to step down and has nothing left to lose politically, what’s stopping him from scrounging together 25 endangered GOPers from purple districts and passing it with Democratic support?

Ah well, there’s probably nothing to it. It’s just one news source that’s reporting this, and a left-wing one at that. HuffPost is just trying to sow mischief by dipping into the endless supply of “House shake-up?” rumors that are constantly circulating on the Hill, especially among anti-establishment Freedom Caucusers.

But wait. Politico’s hearing rumbles too:

Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

Ryan was tiring of D.C. even before reluctantly accepting the speakership. He told his predecessor, John Boehner, that it would be his last job in politics—and that it wasn’t a long-term proposition. In the months following Trump’s victory, he began contemplating the scenarios of his departure. More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority—all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season.

That’s much more plausible than him quitting abruptly anytime soon. For one thing, as Politico notes, the House GOP has a thicket of legislative priorities to navigate in the next few weeks and months: The debt ceiling, funding for the government, DACA, ObamaCare, on and on. The idea that he might quit before the end of the term is premised on the possibility (well, probability) that he’ll need to make so many compromises with Democrats to get those items passed that the Freedom Caucus will revolt, just as they did with Boehner. But the eternal problem would then recur: Who replaces Ryan? Boehner quit believing, correctly, that Ryan would be acceptable as Speaker to the caucus’s different factions. Who’s the guy who plays that role for Speaker Ryan, making him expendable? And why would the House GOP want to deal with a leadership vacuum on top of all of their other impending headaches? The obvious play is to grouse about Ryan but leave him in place until after the midterms.

Which brings us to the other reason they won’t oust him, and why Ryan won’t quit until after Election Day. He’s a cash cow for the party. The donor class loves him and populist incumbents, however much they disdain him, stand to benefit from his largesse. As of the end of September he’d raked in $39 million this year and sent $30 million of it to the NRCC, the committee charged with reelecting House Republicans. That was nearly half of the committee’s total funds in 2017. The party’s facing a blue wave in the midterms and will need every dollar it can get to try to preserve its majority. Aside from Trump, no one’s going to bring in the dough like Ryan will. The party can’t spare him right now. Expect him to be on the ballot next fall:

A special election between some Democrat and Paul Nehlen will be a real treat once Ryan steps down next December. Exit question: Is Politico joking when it says that staying through 2018 “would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform”? They’re going to go after Medicare and Social Security — in an election year? Wut?

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