Tag: paul ryan
Why Republican Threats On Debt Default Are So Feckless And Frightening

Why Republican Threats On Debt Default Are So Feckless And Frightening

When, after a scuffle among Republicans, a frazzled Kevin McCarthy finally abased himself enough to squeak through on the 15th ballot, you could feel the historical symmetry. It was fitting that the chaotic election of this historically weak House speaker in this political climate took place on Friday night — exactly two years after insurrectionists tried to upend American democracy.

I’m not talking here about the ghoul in the “Camp Auschwitz” tee shirt or the vandal carrying the Confederate flag or the rest of the violent mob. I mean the insurrectionists wearing coats and ties and little gold pins identifying them as members of Congress. It was two years ago almost to the hour that 147 Republicans ignored the broken glass and human feces in the Capitol and voted late in the evening to overturn the election.

Almost all of those election deniers are still there — and now they’re in charge of the House. Many of them voted last year against giving the Congressional Medal to heroic Capitol Police officers. That’s who they are. Their fealty to Donald Trump may have atrophied, but their instinct to throw sand into the gears of government is stronger than ever. They want to destroy what they call “the deep state” and now possess the gavels to pursue investigations of everything connected to it.

This week’s Speaker Follies will soon be a dim memory. Beyond the emergence of an exciting new Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries (whose teleprompter-free alliteration covered all 26 letters in the alphabet!), what will endure are at least some of the deals that McCarthy made to end his public humiliation and become speaker.

These concessions (actually, capitulations) will help send the House into perpetual chaos that could end up being even worse for the country and the world than McCarthy’s original sin. That came on January 28, 2021, when — after saying that Trump “bears responsibility” for the assault on the Capitol — he traveled to Mar-a-Lago to provide craven absolution for the disgraced tyrant.

In exchange for helping to rehabilitate Trump, McCarthy expected that Trump would help elect “My Kevin” as speaker. But loyalty is always a one-way street with Trump and his efforts on McCarthy’s behalf were perfunctory. What made the difference were the concessions contained in the “rules package” that has not yet been approved by the House.

McCarthy won by empowering far-right firebrands to make him their bitch. One new rule likely to be adopted says that a single member (filing a “motion to vacate”) can at any time require the House to vote on a new speaker. Talk about a short leash! Does anyone believe that Matt Gaetz or Lauren Boebert or Bob Good won’t make that motion—I dunno—a month from now? Then it’s Groundhog Day all over again.

McCarthy won in part by promising choice committee assignments to the members trolling him and by promising to establish a “Church Committee” (patterned after a legendary Senate select committee chaired by the late Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho) designed to undermine the FBI, DHS, and other federal law enforcement and generate juicy stories for rightwing media. That’s in keeping with the performative bent of the dissidents, whose demands were more procedural than ideological. One of the reasons McCarthy couldn’t close the deal earlier was that the holdouts had “no idea what they wanted,” as Rep. Dan Crenshaw put it. They were “acting like terrorists and children.”

Debt Crisis Caused Havoc In 2011

But by midweek, they returned to a golden oldie for the GOP: shutting down the government and refusing to lift the debt ceiling (two separate congressional actions). Both have been used intermittently for 40 years to achieve deficit reduction.

The first of these — where at the end of the fiscal year in September the Republicans threaten a government shutdown — isn’t so alarming. Historically, government shutdowns don’t go well for the GOP. Once the Washington Monument closes and checks to millions of government employees stop going out, everyone scurries back to the table and works out a deal that does no permanent damage.

It’s the second threat — playing chicken with default on the national debt — where things could get grim. To help explain why, let’s look back at the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, a story I covered in one of my Obama books.

That summer, President Barack Obama was on the ropes. Nine months earlier, the Democrats had lost 63 seats in the House, the most in a midterm since 1938. Tea Party Republicans, feeling emboldened, insisted that the budget needed to be cut by the exact amount that the debt ceiling (the government’s borrowing limit) was raised —in other words, by hundreds of billions of dollars.

The House was then run by Speaker John Boehner and Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan— two conservative Republicans who tried to keep the crazies in the caucus at arm’s length.

One day, Jerome Powell, a former Treasury undersecretary in the first Bush Administration, called up Ryan and asked if he, as a private citizen, could give a white board presentation to the Republican Caucus about the dire consequences of defaulting on the national debt. Ryan invited him to do so. Obama so appreciated Powell trying to talk sense into what were supposed to be business-friendly Republicans that he later appointed him to the Fed.

Then, as now, many Republicans were arguing that using the vote on raising the debt ceiling would be a reasonable cleansing process — a way of reversing big Democratic spending with one vote. “It’s reasonable,” said Bruce Bartlett, a Reaganite economist who, like Powell, understood reality, “if you think sticking a knife in your eye is a good way of dealing with glaucoma.”

Even after the parties assembled a balky Rube Goldberg contraption to cut spending, Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating from AAA for the first time since World War II. The markets cratered and the economy grew sluggishly for the next five years.

Downgrade Would Spark Global Recession

Flash forward to today, when a downgrade would likely bring a recession (along with high interest rates), and even a brief default would likely bring a global depression. Republicans seem unfazed by this prospect. Could it be that they plan to drive the economy over the cliff, then try to win the the White House by blaming Democrats for the crash?

In any event, we’re almost certainly headed for a debt ceiling showdown. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican and not an election denier, explained that the price for his vote for McCarthy was “a specific, concrete limit on spending attached to a debt ceiling increase.” McCarthy has now apparently agreed that any member can use the full faith and credit of the United States to impose any limit on spending at any time.

So is there anything Democrats can do to prevent the crazies from taking the global economy hostage? I’m not sure. The bad news is that Kevin McCarthy makes John Boehner look like Alexander Hamilton. Boehner wrote in his memoirs that the Freedom Caucus practiced “legislative terrorism” when he was speaker and now says that the problem is much worse.

The good news is that while Republicans had a 24-seat margin in 2011, today it’s only five. That means that if the “terrorists” use their perches on the House Rules Committee (obtained in this week’s shakedown of McCarthy) to prevent the debt ceiling bill from coming to the floor, Democrats only need five reasonable Republicans to sign what’s called a discharge petition — a difficult but not impossible process for bringing a bill straight to a vote. Those five signatures (and, later, votes) would most plausibly be obtained from one of the 19 Republicans representing purple districts that Joe Biden carried in 2020. They’re hardly moderates but could vote to prevent themselves from being blamed for a recession generated by the hostage-taking of House Republicans.

In the meantime, we’re in for yet more wounds inflicted on our democratic institutions. The only solution is for Democrats to build on their impressive unity and win in a wipeout in 2024. Then the stench of January 6 might finally begin to lift.

Jonathan Alter is a bestselling author, Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, and a contributing correspondent and political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. His Substack newsletter is OLD GOATS: Ruminating with Friends.

Reprinted with permission from OLD GOATS

Former President Trump, left, shaking hands with former House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Trump Blasts Former Speaker Ryan As A ‘Curse’ On Party

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former President Donald Trump is not pleased with former House Speaker Paul Ryan's remarks suggesting that it is time for the Republican Party to move on from the controversial Trump presidency.

On Friday, Trump released a statement targeting Ryan, whom he refers to as a "RINO" — a Republican in Name Only. The former president lambasted Ryan, although the former speaker did not criticize Trump by name.

Trump also attempted to blame Ryan, who was a candidate for vice president, for the political party's loss in 2012 as he insisted that he shouldn't be the person to offer advice about the future of the party.

In the statement, Trump said, "Paul Ryan has been a curse to the Republican Party. He has no clue as to what needs to be done for our Country, was a weak and ineffective leader, and spends all of his time fighting Republicans as opposed to Democrats who are destroying our Country."

Trump's fiery remarks came less than a day after Ryan's speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. During his speech, Ryan acknowledged the "crossroads" the party is facing.

"Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads. And here's one reality we have to face: If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we're not going anywhere," Ryan said on Thursday, May 28.

Though the speech was interpreted as a criticism of the GOP's direction under Trump, it did not attack the former president by name. In, fact, when he did name Trump, it was to praise him: "To his credit, Donald Trump brought many new voters into our party."

Ryan was, however, critical of Trump's allies in Congress and elsewhere, saying people "will not be impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago." And he did say: "It was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end."

Of course, the former House speaker also criticized President Biden.

"In 2020, the country wanted a nice guy who would move to the center and depolarize our politics," Ryan said. "Instead, we got a nice guy pursuing an agenda more leftist than any president in my lifetime."

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan

Former Speaker Ryan Raising Funds For Trump Critic Kinzinger

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is one of former President Donald Trump's most outspoken critics in the Republican Party, and Trump supporters would love to remove him from Congress via a GOP primary in the 2022 midterms. But the conservative congressman has some allies on the right, including former House Speaker Paul Ryan — who according to Politico's Shia Kapos, will head a fundraiser for Kinzinger this Monday, May 24.

Kapos explains, "It's a decisive move against ex-President Donald Trump, who has set his sights on Republicans who voted to impeach him. Kinzinger is one of 10 Republicans who joined Democrats to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The Illinois Republican has continued to carry the anti-Trump mantle, and it's no surprise that Ryan would back Kinzinger. Ryan, who's had a long-running feud with Trump, criticized Republicans who wouldn't certify the Electoral College results that validated Joe Biden's election as president."

Kinzinger has been a major thorn in Trump's side. Following the 2020 presidential election, Kinzinger called out Trump's debunked claims of widespread voter fraud as total nonsense and acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect. And after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming were among the minority of House Republicans who championed Trump's impeachment.

In 2018, Ryan — who was House speaker at the time and had been Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election — announced that he would not be seeking reelection. Ryan said that he wanted to spend more time with his family, but it was obvious that he was disenchanted with Trumpism and believed that the 2018 midterms would be bad for Republicans.

US Congress

Republicans Put Each Other On Blast As Party Erupts Over Trump

While the 117th Congress began its first working day, every member of the Republican caucus in both houses confronted a moral quandary: Promote Trump and my own ambitions, or defend the Constitution I swore to protect.

The day began with former House Speaker Paul Ryan blasting the efforts of some of his fellow Republicans to overturn a free and fair election.

In a blistering statement, Ryan:

"Efforts to reject the votes of the Electoral College and sow doubt about Joe Biden's victory strike at the foundation of our republic. It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans. The Trump campaign had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence. The legal process was exhausted, and the results were decisively confirmed. The Department of Justice, too, found no basis for overturning the result. If states wish to reform their processes for future elections, that is their prerogative. But Joe Biden's victory is entirely legitimate."
Ryan, who served as Speaker during the first two years of Trump's term, has largely avoided commenting on the news since leaving office, though he did urge soon to be ex-President Trump to accept the results of the election in March, according to The Hill. That was only be the start of a long day that revealed a deepening GOP divide.

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, released a joint statement revealing his concern over some of his colleagues planning to overturn the election on January 6 in a vote that is supposed to be ceremonial.

"We, like most Americans, are outraged at the significant abuses in our election system resulting from the reckless adoption of mail-in ballots and the lack of safeguards maintained to guarantee that only legitimate votes are cast and counted," read Massie's statement, released jointly with several colleges including two who signed the amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to throw out votes in states Trump lost.

"But only states have authority to appoint electors," the letter continued. "Our job on January 6 is to determine whether these are the electors the states sent us, not whether these are the electors the states should have sent us," wrote Massie and his colleagues.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, signed Massie's statement but took his displeasure at the effort to overturn the election a step further -- by releasing his own statement shredding the hypocrisy of many swing-state colleagues. He made a symbolic but strong statement opposing their seating in the new Congress.

"After all, those representatives [who oppose confirming the electoral vote] were elected through the very same systems -- with the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive and judicial branch officials-- as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states, which have become the subject of national controversy," Roy's letter read.