The Corner

Ryan’s Rules

When NR editorially suggested that Paul Ryan should run for Speaker, it included a caveat: “For Ryan to lead House Republicans would require some accommodations. He would have to commit to keeping immigration legislation that most Republicans oppose off the floor, whatever his own opinion of it.” Judging from the reports of last night’s meeting, Ryan seems to be making that concession. Good: I think making Ryan Speaker would be a positive step for Republicans, but not if it led to enacting misguided immigration legislation and tearing the party apart over it.

There are conflicting reports about what Ryan wants with respect to the motion to vacate the Speakership. Some accounts claim that he is trying to eliminate the procedure for removing a Speaker, and thus weakening an important and longstanding check on the Speaker. As far as I can tell, this is doubly mistaken. First, the procedure has not been an important check on Speakers over the last few decades. Before its use against Boehner, it had last been used more than 100 years ago. Second, a spokesman says (consistent with some of the early reports) that Ryan wants to alter the procedure, not eliminate it. (Any number of changes are conceivable: One would be not to require a floor vote on the motion of one congressman.) It looks to me as though Ryan wants to bring the rule in line with the House’s actual practice, not seize vast new powers for the Speaker.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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