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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How To Spell Out A Conservative Legislative Agenda

by JASmius

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been the brunt of criticism from conservatives who say he gave away the store in the recent budget deal, but Ryan says he was victim of the current rules and things will be different in 2016.

"Let me first say, this is divided government, and in divided government, you don't get everything you want," Ryan said in an interview broadcast Sunday on Meet the Press, "So we fought for as much as we could get, we advanced our priorities and principles, not every single one of them but many of them and then we're going to pick up next year and pick up where we left off and keep going for more."...

"[What] I would say is this is the process I inherited. I fully owned that," Ryan said. "But it's also a process that will help us get to what we call 'regular order' next year where we don't wind up with the same kind of situation next year. That is my hope, and that is my goal." [emphases added]

- House Speaker Paul Ryan, three and a half weeks ago

You all know the row that I had with Mr. Gibbs and many of you over the omnibus.  How retarded it was for Tea Partiers to rip the new Speaker for a(nother) fiscal train wreck that was not his fault or creation and whose proverbial bag of which he got stuck and was left holding.  That was John Boehner's mess, and he was already gone.  And rather than waste time and political capital on another pointless government shutdown showdown, Ryan opted to make the best of that bad situation, made a few gains in the final omnibus deal, and instead focus on solving the problem - returning to regular order, the process by which appropriations bills are passed separately, Cabinet department by Cabinet department, with the appropriate level of fiscal scrutiny, so that these damned omnibus continuing resolutions, which make fiscal scrutiny impossible, can be relegated to the old dustbin of history.  I, like the Speaker, was looking at the forest.  Tea Partiers were looking at the trees.  And as I pointed out on the air, and Mr. Gibbs knew but didn't want to publicly acknowledge, the House Freedom Caucus, which was actually there and knew what had transpired, cut Paul Ryan the slack he deserved.

However, after the omnibus was concluded, they also put him on notice that going forward, he has to deliver on what he has promised.  And I absolutely agree with them 100% on that.  The ball is indeed, in Ryan's court.

Which brings us to this story:

House Speaker Paul Ryan had a good run in his first few weeks on the job, clearing out several high-profile bills in a year-end rush.

The good times may not last.

Ryan is already lowering expectations of major legislative achievements in 2016, saying he wants to focus on spelling out a conservative agenda. [Tea Party] Republicans say they want more - and that they’ll push Ryan for votes on their top priorities, such as making significant tax changes, reining in entitlement programs and enacting a new health-care law.

That tension - between Ryan’s push to set out broad principles and the House Freedom Caucus’s impatience to force higher-profile confrontations - could intensify this week as House Republicans go to Baltimore to sort out their legislative agenda.

If the three dozen members of the conservative Freedom Caucus don’t like the outcome, they say they are prepared to push him just as hard as they pushed Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, who eventually quit the job.

"I don’t think you’re going to see Freedom Caucus members just roll over and play dead," caucus member Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona-5 said Tuesday in an interview.

It's not clear from this just exactly what Ryan means by "spelling out a conservative agenda" and what the HFC's expectations are vis-a-vie "legislative achievements".  On the one hand, if by "legislative achievements" House TPers mean any even minor conservative measures becoming law, then Ryan is right to lower those expectations because such conservative measures will either be filibustered to death by Senate Democrats or vetoed by Barack Obama, and no amount of confrontation will ever change that.  Actual enactment of a conservative agenda will require the GOP to retain control of both Houses of Congress and retake the White House this November.  Period.

On the other hand, what better way of "spelling out a conservative agenda" could there ever be than passing one conservative bill after another, ramming as much of each one through reconciliation in the Senate as possible, and turning The One into a veto machine?  Like the Ryan/McConnell Congress just did with ObamaCare repeal, which was vetoed by Obama, but verrrrry quietly, as if he knew what an unpopular disaster his signature "achievement" really is and wanted to give Republicans as little propaganda oxygen as possible.  That's the biggest advantage of having control of Congress - the power to set the national agenda, especially in an election year.  Why not give Ted Cruz some added momentum?  Really be a team, showing what a GOP Congress can do and setting the table for what would be possible under unified Republican government in a Cruz Administration?  Make it "morning in America" for the first time in thirty years, instead of the "mourning for America" we've been doing the past seven?  That might be the only way to avoid that hostile Donald Trump takeover, as a matter of fact.

It's all about remembering where we are in the process.  Trying now in order to succeed in November and beyond.  If Paul Ryan is going the "all hat and no cattle" route, not even attempting anything of any conservative significance because it cannot become law now, how can he spell out a conservative agenda?  Isn't that what energizes the base and motivates them to get out there and doorbell and man phone banks and put up yard signs and the like?  To say nothing of actually showing up on Election Day?  This is not, in other words, the time to "go limp," but to get it up to full mast, as it were.

To borrow a football analogy, a football team has three principle sections: offense, defense, and special teams.  When one of them isn't doing their job, the team is much more likely to lose.  The Legion of Boom can go out there and suffocate the other team's offense, but sooner or later, they're going to put a few points on the board.  However, what if Darrell Bevell decides he's just going to run dive plays between the tackles and not throw a single pass because "it might be intercepted"?  We can hold the other team to ten points, but we wind up losing anyway 10-7.  Who would take the lion's share of the heat after that loss?  The LOB for allowing ten points or Darrell Bevell for not even trying?

If Speaker Ryan "tries" and doesn't get any big-ticket conservative measures signed into law, the House Freedom Caucus and Tea Partiers in general will have zero, zip, nada, bupkis about which to complain, because the purpose will be to set the table for winning the 2016 election from the top of the ballot to the bottom.  If, however, Speaker Ryan doesn't "try" because he forgets the table-setting purpose of "trying," then he will be following in John Boehner's footsteps and the HFC should push the living hell out of him.  And he will have brought it - and perhaps a Donald Trump hostile takeover of the GOP - all upon himself.

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