The Corner

Trashing Paul Ryan Could Mean John Boehner Never Leaves

No one denies there is pushback against the idea of drafting Paul Ryan as speaker from a variety of conservative media sources, including the Drudge Report. As the New York Times reports: “The current flak following Mr. Ryan stems from a growing and powerful collection of far-right pundits and news media — from Mark Levin to Laura Ingraham to the sites RedState and Breitbart and the new Conservative Review — that have successfully wielded influence over Republican voters and lawmakers in strongly conservative districts.” The complaints range from Ryan’s stance on immigration and pro-union bills to his skepticism about the utility of government shutdowns.

But the problem in launching attacks that might convince Ryan not to run for speaker is simple: Who is the alternative? None of the candidates put forward so far by the House Freedom Caucus can get majority support and, indeed, their endorsed candidate — Florida representative Daniel Webster — just had his district obliterated in a court-ordered redistricting lawsuit. Webster is highly unlikely to be in Congress after 2016.

In the absence of anyone else garnering enough of the 247 House Republicans to become speaker, John Boehner has told allies he is perfectly willing to stay on. The speaker election that he won in January lasts two years, and a motion to “vacate the chair” and depose him is unrealistic because Democrats wouldn’t go along with it.

“He will continue serving as speaker until the House elects a new speaker. That’s the way the rules work,” Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida has told reporters, adding he is happy if Boehner stays.

So we have a waiting game as (1) Paul Ryan makes up his mind, (2) the House Freedom Caucus comes to fully realize their power so far has been to upset the establishment apple cart without having the strength to rearrange it and (3) a liberated Speaker Boehner is free to cut deals with moderate Republicans or Democrats that will further anger many conservatives.

For all of the complaints against Ryan, House Freedom Caucus conservatives will become more embarrassed and gradually look powerless the longer that John Boehner remains speaker. Even though Ryan is unlikely to give them the rules changes — many of them salutary — that they want, he is likely to grant them a fair hearing. That’s something they clearly felt they are not getting from John Boehner, who accuses House Freedom Caucus members of being “false prophets,” promising more than they could deliver. 

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