Well yet again I’m feeling that sense of being abandoned by those whom I thought were on my side and on the side of preserving what’s left of my country. But apparently I was wrong again. This so-called “Freedom Caucus” is apparently less interested in freedom that it is in politics as usual. And even though at the end of a meeting that took place yesterday in the U.S. Capitol Ryan had failed to earn the group’s endorsement, he still walked out having received the group’s support.
And it was after making all manner of promises including promising members a return to regular order, changes to the steering committee that decides committee assignments centralizing power in the Speaker’s office and even promising to give up the Speaker’s five votes on the committee and an end to retaliation against Republican members who vote their conscience that Paul Ryan was able to convince enough of the group’s members into supporting him.
He also reiterated his promise made in the full GOP conference on Tuesday that there would be no amnesty bill under Barry “Almighty”—which most notably did not extend to the next president—and an end to the crisis-to-crisis style of governance under outgoing Speaker John Boehner. Ryan also promised more “regional representation” rather than representation centralized in the Speaker’s office. Lots of promises of which very few, I expect, will be kept.
However, the many promises came with two significant strings very firmly attached: first, those present couldn’t tell the public what just happened because, Ryan argued, it would infuriate the other side of the House GOP conference. And Ryan would get what he wanted with significant changes to a House rule that was put in place back in the early 1800s by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president and the author of America’s Declaration of Independence.
That would be the rule which allows any member to offer a “motion to vacate the chair” as a privileged resolution—allowing members to, if a Speaker is out of control, as Boehner has been, remove a Speaker from power. Ryan wants to severely undercut the power of rank-and-file members to hold a Speaker accountable with a motion to vacate the chair. So he wants to keep members from being able to use it whenever necessary, just in case they should come to feel betrayed.
So, heading into the meeting with Ryan, on Wednesday, there was near-unanimous opposition to him in the House Freedom Caucus. And there were many outlets reporting that it was “unlikely” that Ryan would receive the endorsement of the Freedom Caucus. Every member except two opposed a Ryan Speakership—and they were agreeing to the meeting simply to be fair. But when Ryan made all these promises, it seems that most members chose to believe him at face value.
Ryan made all these nice-sounding promises to the members on the condition, that they surrender the only two ways they have to enforce such promises: going public, or kicking him out of office down the road. Several of the members worry that Ryan is untrustworthy and dishonest, especially given the misleading nature of the way he has sold Republicans in the past on Obamatrade, “doc fix,” the budget deal he cut with Democrat Patty Murray and immigration to name just a few.
But if they do come to vote for Ryan, and then he chooses not to deliver all those things that were promised, the Freedom Caucus essentially becomes politically irrelevant. I suppose some would argue, including myself, that by choosing to support him by any measure is nothing short of a capitulation and therefore they have already made themselves irrelevant. Ryan is not the man for this position that has already been so badly squandered over the last 5 years. What’s needed is a conservative!