Harry Reid’s choice for Speaker presents his demands [UPDATED]

If the endorsement of Rep. Luis (the illegal immigrant’s best friend) Gutierrez was not enough to demonstrate that Rep. Paul Ryan is a bad choice for Speaker of the House, then surely Sen. Harry Reid’s endorsement is. Reid told reporters yesterday that he’s “Paul Ryan fan” and hopes the former Republican vice presidential nominee gets the nod. Reid added:

[Ryan] appears to me to be one of the people over there that would be reasonable. I mean look at some of the other people. . .Generally speaking we’ve been able to work with him.

Some will say that Reid is trying to undermine Ryan’s chances by endorsing him in the hope of creating chaos in the Republican caucus. But there’s no disputing what Reid says about Ryan.

From the Democrats’ point of view, Ryan is relatively “reasonable” and the Dems have, in fact, been able to work with him. He worked with Gutierrez on amnesty. He and Sen. Patty Murray brokered a spending deal.

Meanwhile, Ryan himself is demonstrating what a poor choice he is for Speaker through his demands. At a meeting of the caucus yesterday, he laid them out.

Ryan stated that he “cannot and will not give up. . .family time.” This means shirking the fundraising and campaigning role that all Speakers play.

Ryan also demanded an end to the rule whereby a simple majority of the House can remove a sitting speaker. The rule, which originated with Thomas Jefferson, enabled the most conservative members of the House (those in the Freedom Caucus) to hold John Boehner accountable.

Ryan does not want to be accountable to the House’s most conservative members. Thus, these members should refuse to support Ryan.

If anyone should be making procedural concessions, it is Ryan, not conservatives. As Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a member of the Freedom Caucus who has expressed measured support for Ryan, says:

The displeasure with the way the House has been managed since 2011 is pervasive and crosses all sorts of philosophical boundaries with the party. The appetite for a new way of doing business [e.g., a more open process for considering legislation] is real, and whoever wants to be the Speaker is going to have to speak to that.

So far, it appears, Ryan is “speaking to it” by demanding to more power than Boehner had. In effect, he is demanding the surrender by Freedom Caucus members that Boehner was never able to obtain.

One conservative summed up Ryan’s demands as follows: more authority, less responsibility, and less accountability. I think that’s a fair characterization.

A Ryan regime might please Harry Reid, but it would, I fear, be highly unsatisfying to conservatives.

UPDATE: The Freedom Caucus met, voted, and issued this statement:

A supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus has voted to support Paul Ryan’s bid to become the next Speaker of the House. Paul is a policy entrepreneur who has developed conservative reforms dealing with a wide variety of subjects, and he has promised to be an ideas-focused Speaker who will advance limited government principles and devolve power to the membership. While no consensus exists among members of the House Freedom Caucus regarding Chairman Ryan’s preconditions for serving, we believe that these issues can be resolved within our Conference in due time. We all know that Washington needs to change the way it does business, and we look forward to working with Paul and all our colleagues to enact process reforms that empower individual representatives and restore respect to our institution.

As I read this statement, the Freedom Caucus stopped short of giving Ryan all he demanded, but probably gave him enough to minimize the blame if Ryan refuses to be Speaker.

If Ryan takes the job, this is just the beginning of a long dance which both sides are likely to find unpleasant.


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