Paul Ryan and beyond

Speaker Paul Ryan will be stepping down. He will not seek re-election to the House.

I like and admire Ryan, but believe he’s been a disappointment as Speaker. His signature issue was always entitlement reform/fiscal responsibility. Ryan was never likely to get entitlement reform. However, he might at least have avoided the gross fiscal irresponsibility of the omnibus bill that Congress recently passed and the president signed.

Alternatively, and preferably, he might have helped materially improve the budget process. Then, there would have been no omnibus. But Ryan didn’t.

He did help engineer the tax reform bill. Reportedly, he regards this legislation as his legacy. But even looking at matters in a light most favorable to Ryan, we can’t overlook the reality that the combination of the tax cut and the omnibus spending spree is a major setback for the cause of fiscal responsibility.

It is thought that Ryan’s successor as Republican leader in the House will be either Kevin McCarthy or Steve Scalise. In other words, either Ryan’s number two or his number three.

McCarthy is said by some to be the favorite because has developed a good relationship with Trump. Scalise may be more popular within the caucus.

To me, the role of McCarthy and Scalise in leadership militates in favor of an alternative candidate. The image of House Republicans with the conservative base is tarnished. It will be difficult to rally the rank-and-file in this year’s election around what looks like more of the same. (It’s not yet clear whether Republicans will sort out the successorship issue before the election; it seems to me that they should).

My choice would be Jim Jordan. He’s an outsider who has been willing to fight the leadership in defense of conservative policy and principles. And he’s a charismatic figure.

As such Jordan could energize the base. He’s a bona fide “drain the swamp” candidate. Fairly or not, McCarthy and Scalise are perceived as having one foot in the swamp.

House Republicans seem to be in full defeatist mode. Resignation reigns, which helps explain the wave of resignations.

In my view, the selection of McCarthy or Scalise, or the failure to select a new leader in advance of the election, would signal the GOP’s resignation to defeat. The selection Jordan would signal a willingness to fight.

I gather there’s little chance that the GOP caucus will turn to Jim Jordan. Nor is it even clear that he wants the job.

I’d like to see President Trump intervene on Jordan’s behalf. I doubt he will, but if the GOP loses control of the House, it means impeachment for Trump. Thus, if he wants to avoid impeachment, he needs to think carefully about the consequences of sticking with the current, establishment leadership team.

The Trump who ran for president in 2015-16 would understand the peril of doing so.