Golly, it was just 11 days ago that rumors were flying that Ryan would step down as Speaker after the election, believing that his new majority might be so narrow that he wouldn’t be able to get to 218 votes if there were even a handful of defectors during the House vote for Speaker in January.
What happened in the interim?
.@SpeakerRyan unanimously re-elected Speaker-Elect for the 115th Congress.
— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) November 15, 2016
Not only did Trump pull the upset of the century last Tuesday, Ryan’s House majority was barely dented instead of the near-wipeout that seemed to be brewing in mid-October. To oust him as Speaker now, there’d need to be something like 20 defectors during the January vote, not a handful. And Ryan has made a point of chirping excitedly about Trump at every opportunity since election night, with scarcely any hint of the cold war between them after the “Access Hollywood” tape dropped. He held a presser last Wednesday to declare that Trump had a mandate, he showed Trump around his office, then he held a kumbaya photo op with Trump. He opened his press conference this morning by welcoming everyone to “the dawn of a new unified Republican government.” There were even MAGA hats waiting on the chairs of Republican congressmen before their caucus meeting. He’s made every show of fealty to Trump that Trump could have wanted short of holding his baseball bat for him.
And he did this, which I bet even Trump wasn’t expecting:
.@SpeakerRyan on Steve Bannon pick: “This is a person who helped him win an incredible victory on an incredible campaign.” No criticism.
— Cameron Joseph (@cam_joseph) November 15, 2016
Bannon allegedly used to say on Breitbart editorial conference calls that “Ryan is the enemy” and told one reporter via email last December that he was hoping to push Ryan out as Speaker by spring. Breitbart was Paul Nehlen’s biggest media cheerleader during his ill-fated primary challenge to Ryan in Wisconsin. And Ryan has been harshly critical of the alt-right, whereas Bannon has declared Breitbart to be “the platform for the alt-right.” They’re oil and water. The entire thrust of Breitbart’s attacks on Ryan is that America simply cannot be made great again so long as people like Ryan are in power. How does Ryan make an accommodation with that attitude?
If he’s willing to overlook all of that and trust Bannon to deal with him and the Republican establishment in good faith, one of two things must be true. One: He thinks that Reince Priebus, rather than Bannon, will be the truly influential figure around Trump and will steer Trump towards passing “globalist” measures that House Republicans support over Bannon’s objections. That is … not how I would bet. There’s no reason to think Trump would choose a toady like Reince over a svengali like Bannon if forced to choose. Two: Despite having accepted the Speaker position reluctantly after John Boehner quit, Ryan’s now adopted the familiar Washington attitude of needing to cling to power by any means necessary, even if it requires rubber-stamping the Bannon agenda. I assume that’s the answer, as he surely must realize how little leverage he has in this new arrangement. The Republican base is far more loyal to Trump now than it ever was to him; House Republicans will be terrified of siding with Ryan over Trump if they end up in direct conflict over a White House proposal, especially with populist media like Breitbart lashing Ryan. If he’s a stumbling block to the MAGA-ization of the GOP, there’ll be 20 caucus votes somewhere to remove him, which means that unless goodwill for Trump on the right goes south — and that’s hard to imagine if he makes a solid SCOTUS pick and dismantles ObamaCare — Ryan will be stuck swallowing anything Trump wants to feed him for the foreseeable future. As I say, why he’d accept these circumstances instead of stepping aside for someone else when he didn’t much want to be Speaker in the first place is unclear. Gotta survive, I guess, and hang around so that you’re in a position to act once the public finally comes around on entitlement reform sometime in the year 8000.
Which is not to say that Ryan’s the congressional leader in the toughest spot politically today. On the contrary:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) bowed to rank-and-file unrest Tuesday and agreed to delay party leadership elections until Nov. 30, giving time to a group of dissidents pushing for either a change in those at the top or a different course in the Democratic agenda.
The decision, moving what had been a planned reelection of Pelosi and the entire slate of current Democratic leaders, comes amid deep angst after last week’s Tuesday elections left the party without any rung of power in Washington. Just a few weeks ago, Pelosi had been publicly predicting a gain of more than 20 seats and possibly securing the majority because Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was the “gift that keeps on giving.”…
“There is broad angst in the Democratic caucus,” Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), who supported the decision to delay the elections, told reporters. “To stick with the same message over four bad election cycles is a mistake,” Neal said. “I think part of it is that the messengers have to change.”
Obama and Reid will both be gone in January; the only holdover from the age of O, which saw Democrats devastated at every level of government — thanks in part this year to a very thin bench — will be 76-year-old Nancy Pelosi. About time to let the next generation establish itself, no?
Here’s the last Republican Speaker of the House endorsing a pork-barrel infrastructure stimulus bill and encouraging Trump to add a debt-ceiling increase to it so that those very serious fiscal conservatives in Congress don’t use it as a bargaining chip to force him to spend less. Which, really, is the funniest thing any of us will hear all day.
Boehner on CNBC says Trump should push infrastructure bill with a debt ceiling increase pic.twitter.com/S6kdNrt9oe
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) November 15, 2016