Joe Biden isn't the only man in Washington with a big decision pending -- speaking of which, depending on what report you believe, an announcement is either imminent...or not. Over on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives returns to work this week with outgoing Speaker John Boehner still at the helm. The future status of the Republican majority's leadership remains an open question, with several potential candidates to replace Boehner watching and waiting to see what move former Vice Presidential nominee and current Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will make. Ryan has been urged to run for the top spot by everyone from Mitt Romney to National Review's editors to Trey Gowdy to Jason Chaffetz to Boehner himself. The problem? Ryan really, truly doesn't want the job. He's a wonky policy guy at heart who's very satisfied with his current powerful post, and he's the father of a young family whom he travels home to visit every weekend. Seeking and attaining the Speakership would pull Ryan into a challenging, often thankless, hyper-political role, with significant new demands on his time. He wants no part of it. But the drumbeat of pressure has been relentless, and Ryan takes public service seriously, so the door of possibility has moved from tightly shut and locked, to slightly ajar, to creaking open a bit further:
After weeks of insisting he would not run for Speaker, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan - according to those close to him - is now open to leading the fractured Republican conference, and seriously considering launching a bid for speaker of the House. But there's a caveat. And it's a big one. Ryan's confidants tell CBS News he will not horse trade with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 or so deeply conservative members who have been demanding changes to House rules and other very specific promises from candidates for Speaker in exchange for their support. Ryan's confidants say he is not going to negotiate for a job he never sought, and that he has a record of conservative leadership that should be clear to every member of the GOP conference. They say Ryan hasn't ruled out meeting with the House Freedom Caucus if asked, but "he's not going to go to the Freedom Caucus and say, 'I'll do this and this'...otherwise you've sold yourself to them from the very beginning, and set yourself up for failure" said someone with knowledge of his deliberations.' "He still really, really does not want to do this. He has his dream job. If he's Speaker, his whole career path changes. He's not going to make concessions to get a job he didn't want in the first place." Either members believe in his conservative leadership, or they don't - and if Ryan concludes that he's unlikely to get a near-unanimous vote of support from republicans, his allies say he is happy to stay exactly where he is as the chair of the House Ways and Means committee.
Sure, he'll meet with Freedom Caucus hardliners, but he won't enter into negotiations over their demands as the price of admission. It seems as though genuinely harboring very little desire to accept a prestigious job being thrust upon you has some liberating perks. If he chooses to run, Ryan would likely pledge to do his level best to represent the entire Republican conference. If he concludes that a significant contingent of backbenchers will oppose his Speakership and make his gavel-wielding task unreasonably difficult in the coming weeks and months (these comments from Jim Jordan may assuage some of those concerns), he'll walk. And if that happens, what comes next is anyone's guess:
If Ryan chooses not to run, House Republicans will be in an even bigger bind than they are in already. It's unlikely that any of the Republicans in the Speaker's race now - or any of the several who have signaled an interest in running if Ryan doesn't - have a better chance of getting 218 votes than he does. A source close to House Speaker John Boehner says that if Ryan bows out, there is a growing recognition that Boehner may have to postpone his plans to leave Congress, cancel the October 29th vote for Speaker and stick around until the end of the year as Republicans work out their leadership issues. Until now, Boehner's inner circle had insisted that he was extremely reluctant to extend his time in Congress, though Boehner has said he is committed to remaining in the role until a speaker is chosen.
As I've stated previously, be careful what you wish for; toppling leaders in intraparty squabbles does not guarantee a more desirable outcome, especially absent a viable plan. Nevertheless, onetime admirers-turned-vocal critics have already emerged, citing elements of Ryan's voting record and his controversial allies as cause for suspicion and concern. Also, out of curiosity, how would this arrangement work, exactly?
Republicans imploring Paul Ryan to become U.S. House speaker are dangling a pledge that he can skip the job’s frantic fundraising duties. But it’ll cost them upwards of $35 million per election cycle. That’s what outgoing Speaker John Boehner raised, through a grueling nights-and-weekends pace that had him trekking from Florida to Alaska and places in between throughout the 2014 campaign. And this year is no different, as Boehner already has traveled to more than 100 events, according to his fundraising operation...Some say the cost wouldn’t only be to the party. Ryan, 45, would find himself a weaker speaker if he didn’t put his star quality to work for lawmakers desperate for campaign cash...To ease Ryan’s concerns, party leaders are said to be considering a plan that would remove some of the fundraising responsibilities from the speaker’s office.
You can't begrudge a young father blanching at the prospect of living of a suitcase year-round, trekking all over the country to solicit money at an endless blur of political fundraisers. But if the party is willing to give Ryan a pass on all of that as an inducement to take on the position, where does that important cash come from? Who makes up the deficit, and how? I'll leave you with Mitt Romney flip-flopping on human cloning (not really):