by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Ryan should somehow lead Republican lawmakers to scrap the so-called Hastert Rule, an informal policy named for a former speaker who agreed never (well, hardly ever) to bring bills to the floor for a vote that don’t have the support of a majority of the Republican caucus.
And how about the formal rule of the House that allows any member to call a vote to fire the speaker? Since the Democrats presumably would oppose any Republican speaker, that means that 30 members of the current majority can bully the speaker, as the Freedom Caucus did John Boehner.
Along with real support from the wings of his party, Paul Ryan needs repeal of these ridiculous rules. (Just because Thomas Jefferson wrote the rule about voting out the speaker doesn’t make it a good idea now.) They make it impossible to have the bipartisan governance that Congress badly needs, regardless of which party holds the majority.
Unfortunately, Ryan is already showing too many signs of eagerness. He has accepted the quasi-endorsement from the Freedom Caucus; he has said he won’t touch the Hastert Rule; he has been vague about the rule change that would take tar and feathers away from the mob pursuing a speaker.
The reason Republicans turned to Ryan for speaker is that he understands the legislative process. He should insist that he gets good followership or he won’t give the followers get the leader they need.
Ryan is a radical reformer who can negotiate. Read any of his proposals for restoring the federal system of government and for changing the attitudes of the American people. He wants to lead the country in a new direction, like the one the Freedom Caucus and its blogosphere say they want.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan issued a string of budget proposals. In 2013, for example, his draft promised to cut federal taxes and balance the federal budget by 2023. It featured major rebalancing of federal spending, pushing responsibility for health care and other big items down to the states or to individuals and providing a limited amount of federal aid.
Real Ryan reform will be impossible unless a Republican leader can inspire a drastic change in American thinking about the role of government support for most citizens.