There has been a lot of talk about what an ineffective Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.) is and has been but in every case, the fact that he’s not going anywhere keeps coming up as some big FYI to many Americans.
And it’s true.
Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House for a few reasons.
First, no one else wants the job. Literally. No one wants the thankless and vilified job of being the Speaker of the House since John Boehner left. Okay, perhaps with the exception of Nancy Pelosi.
No one seems to remember how utterly reticent Paul Ryan was to take on the speakership. He didn’t want it. At all.
When Rep. John Boehner (R – Ohio) resigned out of sheer frustration — NB: he was never meant to be Speaker long in the first place — when he had a Democratic White House to contend with as well as a fractious caucus, it was shortly after his heir apparent, Rep. Eric Cantor (R – Va.), was primaried and beaten by economist Dave Brat.
Boehner’s ceremonious exit from both the speakership and his House seat left the salacious rumor-ridden and unpopular Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R – Calif.) as the next in line, but that option became clearly untenable as time went on. The only person acceptable to the majority of the Republican conference in the House was Paul Ryan.
Ryan was popular in the 2012 election as Mitt Romney’s running mate. However, the Wisconsin Republican never aspired to be anything beyond Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House. As a fiscal policy wonk, Ryan’s dream role was to have the clout and political sway to affect budget reforms.
House conservatives gave a lame attempt at an alternative by offering up Rep. Louie Gohmert (R – Texas), but ultimately Ryan was badgered into throwing his name in for Speaker and won handily.
The Ryan speakership can be summed up in one tweet:
R's to Ryan: Please take it.
R's: Pls? We really need you.
PR: No thx
R's: There's literally no one else
R's: You're Speaker k
— Andrea Caruso (@AndreaNRuth) September 12, 2017
The second reason Ryan isn’t going anywhere as Speaker is because he’s the only one who can keep the Republican conference in anything that resembles a unified front.
People always point to how ineffective Ryan is at Speaker — and, honestly, I don’t think Ryan is great at it or think he’s particularly suited to it — but he led House Republicans through passing the first post-Obama health care bill earlier this year.
The American Health Care Act was not a good bill, but that’s not the point. Ryan cobbled together enough middle-of-the-road Republicans and House Freedom Caucus members, as well as some of the more progressive Republicans from the Tuesday Group, to get something passed.
As unpalatable as it may seem to conservatives, if Republicans are going to get any kind of tax reform or immigration bill passed, in spite of Trump’s muddying the proverbial waters, someone like Ryan is necessary.
The third and final reason Paul Ryan’s job is safe as Speaker is no one else could do any better.
The House Freedom Caucus under the leadership of Rep. Mark Meadows has apparently lost its mind recently and decided to meet with Steve Bannon of all people to try and unseat Ryan.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board rightly told Meadows to put up or shut up. There’s no reason Meadows couldn’t run for Speaker himself against Ryan if he and the HFC are that distraught over how Ryan is running things.
The truth is, neither Meadows nor anyone else the HFC might select could effectively whip the Republican conference and those who caucus with them better than Paul Ryan. They are simply too polarizing for the rest of the Republican members of the House to be more effective than Ryan.
Paul Ryan isn’t going anywhere. He’s Speaker until he decides he’s had enough or Democrats regain the majority. Acting like there is a suitable or acceptable alternative who could do better at this time and in this climate is nonsense.