The Republican search for a new Speaker of the House has turned into the draft Paul Ryan movement. Ryan is almost universally liked and respected by both leadership and the rank and file Republican membership of Congress. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, leader of the Freedom Caucus has stated that he and his members might support a Ryan Speakership. Though only about forty strong, the Freedom Caucus has vast support among American conservatives, many of whom are dismayed at Congress’ unwillingness to take hard stances against an Obama administration they see as lawless. Backed by enormous grass-root support, the Freedom Caucus withheld their support for House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy who was the early favorite to take over from the resigning John Boehner.
By most accounts, the Speakership is a thankless job that no one wants, including Paul Ryan. The problem for Ryan is, most of the rest of the House wants him in the job. He, or anyone else won’t be elected Speaker if they will merely be John Boehner 2.0. The main criticism of Boehner was his top down style of leadership. The grassroots hated that he seemed to back down from the administration without a fight. Conservatives don’t want more of the same, but what might an acceptable alternative look like? Here are some ideas:
- The new Speaker must be inclusive, and be willing to de-centralize power. Members have to be able to introduce amendments to legislation. In order to preserve the privilege of being the majority party, amendments should be done though the committee chairmen.
- The new Speaker must be able to sell Republican initiatives to the American people. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich took the Republican “Contract with America” to the people. A new Speaker should be able to articulate to the voters not just the ‘what’ of proposed legislation, but the ‘why’, and do it in a way that the average voter can understand.
- The new Speaker must have respect for the “Tea Party” element of the Republican party. They owe their majority in the House partially to them. The Freedom Caucus is not going away anytime soon, and the Speaker has to recognize this reality.
- The new Speaker must be able to lay down and follow an agenda that keeps the appropriations process moving forward. No more “grand bargains” or other bloated legislation. Congress needs to average an appropriations bill a month, thus limiting the effect of a government shutdown, should it ever come to that.
- The new Speaker has to be able to work with the Senate. If the Senate Majority Leader is not on the same sheet of music, intraparty gridlock will occur. Republicans must be able to show a united front against a contrarian administration. If the battle is already won with the public, the President needs to be made to take the heat.
If the new Speaker of the House commits to doing these things, he or she will find wide support, particularly from the voting public. If the public is for you, who can be against you? There may or may not be a perfect candidate for Speaker, but it is also worth noting that old saying: “Perfect is the enemy of the good enough”. First, the eventual Speaker has only to get 218 members of the House to back him or her. It’s been done before, it probably can be done again—just sayin’.