The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Ryan Calls For ‘Complete Alternative’ To Obama’s Policies

By Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

WASHINGTON — In his first big political address as Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan said Republicans have to stand for more than just undoing what President Barack Obama has done.

“If we want to save the country, then we need a mandate from the people. And if we want a mandate, then we need to offer ideas,” said Ryan, speaking from the Library of Congress across the street from the U.S. Capitol.

“So, our No. 1 goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda,” he said.

As he has repeatedly since he was elected speaker on Oct. 29, Ryan promised to offer a meaty agenda that will give voters a clear alternative to Democrats in the 2016 elections.

He said nothing explicit about the tumultuous Republican presidential race that has unnerved many insiders in his party. As he spoke, the GOP’s 2016 hopefuls were in another part of the nation’s capital, addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition.

But Ryan said his party’s path to the kind of defining victory it needs is not to “demonize, polarize, turn out your voters (and) hope the rest stay home.”

Ryan said, “Yes, it’s possible we could win that way — but to what end?”

The Wisconsin Republican laid out in broad strokes a conservative agenda that includes repealing the 2010 health care law; making the tax code flatter and simpler; cutting taxes, spending and debt; promoting trade; reforming the Pentagon; building a “21st-century military”; and providing a conservative answer on poverty and stagnant wages.

As he has in the past, Ryan called for combining poverty programs, expanding work requirements, letting states and communities experiment, and testing the results.

On the president’s health care law, Ryan said, “We think this problem is so urgent that, next year, we are going to unveil a plan to replace every word of Obamacare.”

He also sharply condemned Obama on foreign policy and national security.

“Our adversaries don’t respect us. Too many people think a warning from the United States is the hollow protest of a has-been,” he said.

But Ryan said the “big thing I think House Republicans need to do in 2016” is to pass bills that offer positive conservative alternatives, “even if (Obama) won’t sign them into law.”

“We will put out specific proposals and give the people a real choice,” he said. “And I don’t mean just undo what the president has done — as if we could time-travel back to 2009. I mean show what we would do, what our ideal policy would be — looking forward to 2017 and beyond.”

In his second month as speaker, Ryan hinted at a kind of two-track approach to his job: keeping the government functioning by working with Democrats where necessary to avoid complete paralysis in Washington, while passing legislation that defines what the GOP stands for.

“We don’t have to compromise our principles to work with the other side. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then, and hard as it might be to believe, even politicians can find common ground,” he said.

Interviewed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe before his speech Thursday, Ryan all but assured passage of a broad spending bill in the coming days that will keep the government running.

“I have no reason to believe we’ll have a government shutdown,” he said.

Ryan said in his speech that, “even if we can’t move mountains, we can make moves in the right direction … we can make progress on issues where there’s bipartisan agreement, like rebuilding our roads and bridges or bringing some certainty to the tax code.”

And he touted his performance in his opening weeks as speaker, saying, “I’d like to think we’ve hit the ground running.”

The new speaker in essence asked conservatives in his party to be patient through 2016 and understand the limits of what a GOP Congress can achieve under divided government.

“A great frustration in our party is we have not had a real national majority in seven years. We have controlled Congress, but not the presidency. And we need to. This country has big problems. But if we do not have a president who will work with us, we will not solve those problems — that is, while they are still solvable,” Ryan said at one point.

“We need a new president. It’s just that simple,” he said at another.

“We want America to be confident again,” he said. “We want people to believe in the future again. We want a country where no one is stuck, where no one settles, where everyone can rise.”

A spokesman for Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed Ryan’s speech.

“Republicans remain fixated on a toxic special interest agenda that threatens the economic security of millions of seniors and hard-working families,” said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.

“Speaker Ryan said nothing new today — only more of the same tired Republican plans to empower the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of seniors, children and working families.”

©2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington November 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron

 

Analysis: Ryan’s Political Gambit Comes With Upsides, Pitfalls

By Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

WASHINGTON — If Paul Ryan is playing his cards right — and it’s a big if — then he has turned the Republicans’ leadership crisis from a “no win” predicament into a “no lose” proposition.

He can be the next House speaker on his own terms, with a bigger mandate, greater job security and more family time than his predecessor.

Or rebellious House conservatives can reject his steep demands and give him an easy out to spurn a job he didn’t want in the first place.

“He wins no matter what happens here,” says one Wisconsin colleague, Republican Reid Ribble. “Because he’s not vying to be speaker. And so if he doesn’t get everybody behind him, he stays where he is and he’s as happy as a clam. And if he gets everybody behind him, he’s empowered to do the types of things he wants to do as speaker. So it was actually a pretty good maneuver.”

Ryan ended a dramatic waiting game Tuesday when he told GOP colleagues he would agree to be their speaker if they could unify behind him.

“If I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve. And if I’m not unifying, that will be fine as well. I will be happy to stay where I am at the Ways and Means Committee,” Ryan told reporters Tuesday night, referring to the committee chairmanship he has long cherished and assumed less than a year ago.

“I have left this decision in their hands,” Ryan said of his colleagues.

Ryan asked for the endorsement of the party’s major factions in the House, including the conservative 40-member Freedom Caucus that forced current Speaker John Boehner’s resignation.

But Ryan laid out conditions that some members of the Freedom Caucus can’t abide, including altering the ability of individual members to force a vote to remove the speaker, known in parliamentary lingo as a “motion to vacate the chair.”

“That’s just not going to happen,” said Idaho’s Raul Labrador, who like others members of the Freedom Caucus wants the speaker to have less power, not more.

“I want a speaker that serves the membership, not the other way around,” said Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, another caucus member. “It will be hard to put these two together: a bottom-up approach with a speaker candidate who says, ‘I will serve only if you meet this list of demands.'”

Ryan met Wednesday with the Freedom Caucus.

With his conditional “yes” to the speakership, the pressure within the party shifts from Ryan — whether he would take one “for the team” and fill the glaring void for speaker — to the hard-line rebels in the GOP caucus.

They can either join their colleagues and endorse Ryan, arresting the party’s embarrassing dysfunction, or take the blame for plunging the House back into disarray, with no obvious alternative for speaker.

“There are some people that are not going to vote for Congressman Ryan no matter what,” said Ribble, a former member of the Freedom Caucus who dropped out when they drove Boehner to give up his job.

Ribble said the Freedom Caucus faces a contradiction in its own approach. It wants a more democratic GOP caucus that respects the will of the majority, but is willing to block the majority over its choice for speaker and other issues.

Before Tuesday, Ryan appeared to be in a no-win predicament. If he said no to speaker, he would be leaving his party in the lurch. If he said yes, he would be signing up for a doomed mission, managing an unmanageable GOP caucus.

Instead, his “conditional” yes has made his choices seem more appealing.

If he doesn’t get the across-the-board support from GOP colleagues he’s asking for, he won’t be blamed for “selfishly” spurning a speaker’s race, and he keeps his dream job of chairing the Ways and Means committee and trying to rewrite the nation’s tax code.

And if he does get his mandate to be the next speaker, at least he tackles the job on his own terms: with some assurance he won’t be undermined in his own party; and with a promise that his personal time with his family won’t be completely sacrificed to the political travel and fundraising demands of the office.

But even that new calculus comes with plenty of peril.

The speakership could be a minefield under the best of terms. The GOP caucus could prove to be ungovernable. And the risks to Ryan’s political future are massive, whether he wants to run for president someday or not.

“If history was an indicator, you could say this ends Paul Ryan’s political career,” says Wisconsin GOP colleague Sean Duffy, who added it was “pretty cool” that Ryan is willing to do it anyway.

Of the last eight speakers, only Democrat Nancy Pelosi has remained in the House after serving in that office. Tradition tells us it’s up and out for House speakers.

“He’s taking a big gamble. The thing is every Republican speaker in the last 30 years has been forced out,” says U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. “He’s also sacrificing the job he’s dreamed of having his entire service in Congress. … He’s doing this to try to make Congress more functional.”

In the eyes of his supporters, Ryan’s signature reluctance to be speaker is a sign of virtue and source of power.

“He’ll be the only guy that can look at anybody with the moral authority and say, ‘Look, you know I didn’t want this job. This is what we have to do. I need your help,'” says Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Ryan supporter.

But that same reluctance is a red flag to Ryan skeptics in the caucus.

“He does not have time to do the speaker’s job,” says Alabama’s Mo Brooks, a Freedom Caucus member, referring to Ryan’s insistence that “I cannot and will not give up my family time.”

Said Brooks: “I’m troubled by the insistence of so many members that we put him in a position that he has shown a reluctance to take.”

Said Huelskamp: “He clearly doesn’t want to do the job.”

Republicans are scheduled to select their new speaker Wednesday, with the full House voting the next day, Oct. 29.

If their choice is the reluctant Ryan, his political gambit will be put to the test: whether taking an incredibly important and difficult job that you don’t want is a crafty strategy for success or a career-killer.

Photo: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) leaves a meeting about his bid to be the next Speaker of the House with moderate members of the House Republican caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Walker’s Comments On His Foreign Policy Credentials Draw Democratic Criticism

By Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — An animated Scott Walker told a huge gathering of conservative activists here that his battle with protesters in Wisconsin shows he has the mettle to take on ISIS as commander-in-chief.

“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threats from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil,” said Walker.

“We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” said Walker, who drew repeated cheers from the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering that draws thousands.

With foreign policy an obvious hole on his political resume, Walker has argued that his record as governor gives him credibility as a potential international leader. However, his comments about taking on protesters — made in a question-and-answer session after his 13-minute speech — drew a quick rejoinder from the Democratic National Committee.

“If Scott Walker thinks that it’s appropriate to compare working people speaking up for their rights to brutal terrorists, then he is even less qualified to be president than I thought. Maybe he should go back to punting,” said DNC communications director Mo Elleitheev.

Questioned later, Walker said he was not drawing a parallel between the 2011 protests and terrorism, just using the episode to illustrate his handling of a difficult situation. Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski issued a statement saying the governor “was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership.”

Earlier, Walker told the crowd that the secret to winning at the ballot box is fighting until victory is achieved, not compromising.

“You know how we did it?” Walker said of his political and policy victories in Wisconsin, a state that has been voting Democratic for president since the 1980s. “We did it without compromising. … Independents want the same thing as the base. They don’t want someone who’s going to fight for the sake of fighting. They want someone who is going to fight and win every single day for the hard-working taxpayers.”

Walker joined numerous other GOP hopefuls at the event, which is a traditional magnet for Republican politicians with national ambitions.

His appearance was easily one of the most anticipated here.

The Wisconsin governor arrived looking more and more like a top contender, even a front-runner to some, propelled by a wave of media attention, positive feedback from GOP insiders, activists and voters, and a steady rise in state and national polls.

Standing on the stage with his sleeves turned up, Walker reeled off a conservative checklist of accomplishments that resonated with the crowd, from curbing public employee unions to tax cuts to anti-abortion legislation to voter ID to concealed carry.

He even touted the imminent passage of right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin — an interesting twist considering the governor repeatedly called the issue a distraction and said he didn’t want to see it advance in the Legislature.

The Wisconsin Senate passed the bill Wednesday. The legislation goes to the state Assembly next week.

Walker reprised many lines and themes from recent campaign speeches, referring to Washington as “68 square miles surrounded by reality,” and touting his battles with Democrats and labor.

At one point, Walker talked over a heckler to more cheers from the audience, joking that “apparently the protesters come from Wisconsin as well.”

The governor has been a lightning rod for attention in recent weeks, most recently when The Washington Post asked him if he thought President Barack Obama was a Christian and the governor replied that he didn’t know. In an opinion piece op-ed in USA Today on Thursday, Walker called out the media for pushing him to comment on Obama’s patriotism and faith, vowing to “refuse to take the media’s bait.”

“I will always choose to focus on what matters to the American people, not what matters to the media,” he wrote.

The flap may have served to help him with the party’s conservative base, as much as anything else.

Walker enjoys a double-digit lead in Iowa in a survey by Quinnipiac released this week. “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is taking the Republican political world by storm,” said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

And while these early polls can change dramatically in the months leading up to the first nominating contests, the underlying trends and patterns are hugely encouraging to the Wisconsin governor.

In survey after survey, he gets positive ratings from a majority of Republicans polled, and negative ratings from a relative few. In survey after survey, he polls best among the conservative voters that form the GOP base and are highly active in the nominating process, including tea party supporters and evangelical Christians. He fares worse with moderate Republicans but even among them, his overall numbers are positive.

Some in the crowd chanted, “Run, Scott, run” toward the end of his appearance.

“I’ve been running three times in the last four years so I’m getting pretty used to it,” Walker said.

Photo: Megan McCormick via Wikimedia Commons