Amid chaos in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, desperate GOP leaders are pleading for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to save them by becoming the new speaker of the House.
Ryan appears to be the perfect person for this position — on paper. He’s well-liked, nationally-known and has experience pushing legislation through the tumultuous chamber.
But the former vice presidential candidate appears to not want the job, even though outgoing Speaker John Boehner and several other leading Republican lawmakers are harassing the still-young Wisconsinite to do so. (RELATED: Boehner Reportedly Wants Paul Ryan To Run For Speaker)
Considering the job description and the rewards for taking on the role of House speaker, any person can be forgiven for refusing the assignment — especially if that person has presidential aspirations.
But for Ryan, the job would be a particularly perilous one to take for both himself and the Republican Party. During a presidential primary that is exposing a massive divide between the leadership and the base, there might be nothing that would expand that chasm more than a Paul Ryan speakership.
That’s because on two key campaign issues Ryan is not only out-of-sync with the base, he’s the leading Republican championing the opposing view. Those two issues are, of course, immigration and President Obama’s trade deals.
Donald Trump has surged to the front of the primary pack in large due to his fiery rhetoric on illegal immigration and promises to stop it. Due to Trumpmania, immigration is now one of the defining topics of the 2016 race and every candidate is getting grilled on the issue. In order to keep up with the fury of the base and Trump’s appeal, other candidates have turned into border warriors and one has even become an unlikely advocate for decreasing legal immigration. (RELATED: Fiorina: Legal Immigration Should Decrease, Not Increase)
Rep. Ryan, on the other hand, is on the opposite side of the fence. During the 2013 legislative battle over granting amnesty to illegal immigrants, the Wisconsin wonk was arguably the most vocal spokesman for bringing the Senate’s Gang of Eight amnesty bill to the House floor.
Unlike Gang of Eight member Marco Rubio, who is now singing a different tune as he’s running for president, Ryan is still just as poised to push through comprehensive immigration reform as he ever was. That’s why he got the surprising endorsement of Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez — the most outspoken proponent of amnesty in Congress.
Immigration control advocate and Numbers USA president Roy Beck has gone as far to declare Ryan the “worst Republican” on the issue and considers the congressman an advocate for open borders.
That’s why many grassroots conservatives are wary of Ryan getting the nomination, especially when Ryan was instrumental in pushing legislation Obama wanted but the Republican base hated through Congress last summer.
If there is any Republican the president should thank for getting him Trade Promotion Authority, it should be Paul Ryan. The fiscal hawk spent countless hours in June telling hesitant Republicans that signing-off on TPA was the conservative thing to do and America needed it to stay competitive in trade. The bill would allow Obama and future presidents to negotiate trade deals with a freer hand and give him the ability to submit the final proposals to Congress without the legislative branch’s input into the matter.
Ryan made the case that the GOP could trust the president to negotiate good trade deals with China, even though they couldn’t trust him to negotiate good nuclear deals with Iran.
While the courted speaker choice hasn’t formally committed yet on the just-agreed-to TPP, it is expected for him to champion it in Congress like he did with TPA. Several Republican insiders are worried about the effects that TPP could have on the 2016 primary and how it could turn into another political gift for Trump.
To reiterate: for a party that spent so much energy telling America Obama’s deal with Iran was terrible, it’s going to be a major challenge for that same party to tell their own voters that his trade deal will be terrific for the nation. Already the signs of discontent are emerging and if the leader of the Republican caucus is the biggest supporter of the deal, you can expect the disgust for the GOP establishment to metastasize.
The reason why Ryan was seen by Boehner and others as the GOP House caucus’s only hope was his supposed ability to unite establishment moderates and rebellious conservatives together. The rebels have quickly soured on this idea, as a brief visit to Breitbart News can demonstrate. Reuters is reporting that a few conservative lawmakers are already campaigning against Ryan and are sharing around footage of the Wisconsin rep speaking in favor of the much-maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program.
A few years ago, Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and Eric Cantor were seen as the next generation of conservative leadership. Today, Cantor is out of office, McCarthy has been humiliated and Ryan is reluctant to go down with them. “The Young Guns,” as they were dubbed, presented an image of the GOP that was solely focused on fiscal concerns and synonymous with business interests.
Some thought that was the conservative wave of the future.
As we are witnessing the rise of Trump and the return of the middle American radical, the Young Gun philosophy can no longer be seen as the ideology of the grassroots. National interest is trumping business interests among the base. That’s why immigration and TPP are such fundamental issues at the moment. (RELATED: The GOP Has Abandoned The Middle American Radical)
If Republicans hope to have a united party for 2016, they should hope the speaker’s gavel doesn’t end up in the hands of Paul Ryan.