Matt Fuller

Something About the Speaker (Footnote Fury)

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01) speaks at his primary night press conference, 9 August 2016, in Janesville, Wisconsin. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

“The new Paul Ryan tax cuts make the Bush tax cuts look like socialism.”

Jonathan Chait

Steve Benen frames the issue well enough:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has largely pulled off an impressive public-relations gambit in recent years. The Republican leader has recast himself as an anti-poverty crusader, without making any meaningful changes to his far-right agenda, simply by using the word “poverty” a whole lot.

But it’s occasionally worthwhile to look past the rhetoric and focus on the hard data ....

.... Ryan’s tax plan is crafted in such a way as to give 99.6% of the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy by 2025. The other 0.4% would be divided up across the other 99% of us.

This is a feature, not a bug, of the House Speaker’s approach to economic policy. Ryan genuinely believes that massive tax breaks for those at the very top will spur economic growth that would, in time, benefit everyone. For the Wisconsin congressman, trickle-down policy, its track record notwithstanding, remains the most responsible course to broad national prosperity.

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The Ryan Budget (Murmur Mix)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 December 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“When the next Democratic speaker wants to spend $350 billion over ten years to make public colleges tuition-free for undergraduates, the system will turn in knots to make it seem like we’re broke and can’t afford it. But when Speaker Ryan wants $350 billion to help multinational corporations lower their tax burdens, the system will clear the runway as quickly as possible for these vital and necessary investments.”

David T. S. Jonas

Anyone giving even a modicum of attention to the manner in which Congress actually works can understand why the Ryan Budget seems like a fine accomplishment, but it is also, to the one, a “kind of backroom deal that offers real concessions to Democrats and blows up the deficit wasn’t the change insurgent Republicans were looking for when they ousted John Boehner”, Ezra Klein explained; more directly, he continues that in the larger context the lesson is, “No one cares about the deficit―or, at the very least, everyone cares about other priorities more than they care about the deficit.” "If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head." (Jim Newell, Slate, 16 December 2015) To the other, we might also beg leave to wonder at what Matt Fuller and Jennifer Bendery described as the “massive spending bill that nobody especially likes”. Jim Newell summarizes, “If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head”.

And there is merit in the idea that nobody is wholly satisfied, but it also says something important that compromise means lowered expectations. Something about competition and partnership goes here.

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Image notes: Top ― House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 December 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Left ― Via Jim Newell of Slate: “If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head.”

French, Lauren. “Ryan: Budget package a true compromise”. Politico. 15 December 2015.

Fuller, Matt and Jennifer Bendery. “Congress Ready To Pass Massive Spending Bill That Nobody Especially Likes”. The Huffington Post. 16 December 2015.

Jonas, David T. S. “Maybe Rush Limbaugh has a point: Paul Ryan just blew up the deficit, and Democrats are letting him”. Salon. 19 December 2015.

Klein, Ezra. “The big new budget deal, explained”. Vox. 18 December 2015.

Newell, Jim. “The Paul Ryan Compromise”. Slate. 16 December 2015.

The Times Editorial Board. “Ryan shows compromises can be reached in the House without brinkmanship”. 17 December 2015.

About What We Expect from Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015.  (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Well, you know. They tried.

Like we noted last week, it’s Congress.

The failure of Congress to strike a budget deal Monday night to avert a government shutdown means House and Senate lawmakers will have to pass another short-term continuing resolution―even though they approved one last week.

(Fuller)

Show of hands: Who’s surprised?

Anybody? Anybody?

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Image note: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01CD) meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Fuller, Matt. “Congress Needs Another Stopgap Spending Measure To Avoid Shutdown”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2015.

Congressional Speculation

Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, does a sound check during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Ryan delivered his speech at the convention Wednesday night, 29 August 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“One senior GOP aide familiar with discussions between leadership and the Freedom Caucus used Dante Alighieri’s description of hell in ‘The Divine Comedy’, with its varying concentric circles, to describe the HFC. No candidate will get to the innermost circle. But Ryan could pick off a lot of members on the outer rings.”

Matt Fuller

The upshot here is that the idea of static or patterned chaos, which really does sound somewhat counterintuitive until you do the thing with a triangle and dice, but in this case we mean something yet altogether different: Meet the new chaos; same as the old chaos. House Republicans seem caught up in some sort of loop, waiting for Ryan while trying to deliberately ignore the gigantic question mark they keep glancing aside in hopes of checking.

Matt Fuller of Roll Call explains:

If the HFC, after largely taking credit for pushing out Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and blocking the ascension of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen as having scuttled a Ryan speakership, the divide between the ultra-conservative group and the rest of the conference could become even more unmanageable.

Without Ryan, the speaker’s race threatens to turn into a free-for-all. On Tuesday, there were at least a half dozen new names of Republicans quietly testing the water for runs of their own, including a couple of Texans (Reps. Bill Flores and Michael McCaul), the wealthiest man in Congress (Rep. Darrell Issa) and a woman, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn ....

.... Sources close to Ryan say the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has no intention of putting up with an insurrection on his right flank. If Ryan agrees to take the speakership, he will tell colleagues he’ll only do it with all of their support. What’s more, he is making no promises about overhauling the process, shaking up the Steering Committee or any of the other concessions being floated by conservatives.

If that’s Ryan’s position, there will almost certainly be Republicans who will oppose him. And then conservatives will have a choice of their own. They can either hold fast to their procedural demands, or they can get on board with a Ryan speakership.

In truth, Mr. Fuller’s running commentary about sources is much more enlightening. After all, Congress is Congress, and reporters are merely human. Every little piece, you know? It’s not just the stories they tell, but also whether or not we are capable of understanding them. In communicative relationships, the burdens of transmission are much more apparent than the obligations of actually being able to receive.

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Image note: Detail of photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Fuller, Matt. “Oh, and another thing I noticed”. Twitter. 13 October 2015.

—————. “Ryan’s Choice and the House Freedom Caucus Fallout”. 218. Roll Call. 13 October 2015.

Required Reading: The Shadow over Columbia

Poor John

As the drama continues on Capitol Hill, there is this from David Hawkings of Roll Call:

Ryan has proven experience in drafting provocative budgetary blueprints, a zeal for shaping innovative tax simplification plans and a solid record as a party fundraiser to go along with all his perceived potential to heal the GOP’s profound internal injuries.

But that seemingly almost impossible task won’t be made an easier by the one gap in his resume that his allies are portraying among his virtues: He has no real experience running the House or attending to the day-to-day needs of his colleagues.

He’s never done the floor leader’s work of managing the legislative calendar or the whip’s job of counting and corralling votes. He’s never been charged with the overall messaging, policy development, campaign strategy and internal GOP organizational tasks that are the purview of the other leaders.

Maybe most notably of all, he’s never gotten his hands dirty in what’s euphemistically dubbed “member services” — the catchall work of mediating petty turf wars, granting oddball VIP favors, providing late-night sustenance, refereeing travel requests, finding extra office space, bird-dogging personal behavior and intervening to prevent ethical transgressions.

Most of those high-risk and concertedly below-the-radar thankless tasks get performed by the floor leaders and whips, which helps explain why all but one speaker since World War II was previously in one or both jobs for at least a combined five years. And the exception, Republican J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, was a serious practitioner of the member services dark arts as the appointed chief deputy whip for four years.

Now, go read the rest of it. And remember, if you read Roll Call and The Hill, you don’t need cable news.

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Fuller, Matt. “Speaker Election Delay Stirs Conservative Anger”. 218. Roll Call. 9 October 2015.

Hawkings, David. “Next Speaker Unlikely to Continue Long String of Leadership Insiders”. Hawkings Here. Roll Call. 10 October 2015.

Lillis, Mike. “Top GOP strategist: House leadership turmoil ‘a good thing'”. The Hill. 10 October 2015.

The House Freedom Caucus (Feature the Bug Bass Beat Mix)

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

Here is a strange proposition: The Trump effect, currently plaguing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, is a feature, not a bug.

While the notion of sucking up all the oxygen is certainly evident as Republican candidates struggle for breath, consider for a moment that there is also a Democratic contest afoot. To the other, all we really hear about it is a string of scandal stories about Hillary Clinton, and how many people turn out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

And, of course, any time we might lead with a joke like, What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? we might rest assured that our uneasiness is genuine because things really have gotten that far out of hand.

The question of the hour:

Barring a historic meltdown, Republicans will select Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be their nominee for speaker Thursday. But does that mean McCarthy will get 218 votes in the House floor vote on Oct. 29?

(Fuller)

Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t exactly sitting back and watching, but nobody should feel badly for thinking otherwise. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, but the drama in the House of Representatives is exclusively Republican.

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A Congressional Fire Drill

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

Bring your own analysis.

Roll Call has been busy trying to make heads and tails of House Republicans:

John T. Bennett: “Deputy Whip Tom Cole, R-Okla., and House Freedom Caucus founding member Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., did agree on two things. They both see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as the leading candidate to take over as speaker. And they believe a government shutdown will be averted by a stopgap spending bill passed within the next few days.”

Emma Dumain: “Sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call Saturday afternoon that in the event Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., makes a play for majority leader, Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., would look to move up one slot.”

David Eldridge and Matt Fuller“House Speaker John A. Boehner has a word of warning, straight out of the Bible, for fellow Republicans: ‘Beware false prophets’.”

David Hawkings: “The trend of past three decades will surely make California’s Kevin McCarthy, or whoever ascends to the presiding officer’s chair, extremely wary about his career’s trajectory over the long term — even after this fall’s latest internal Republican revolution gets put to rest.”

Catching up with some of the details that might have slipped by unnoticed, we can turn to The Hill:

Jordain Carney: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was ‘unable to control’ his party and that his resignation could leave Republicans increasingly ‘out of touch.'”

Cristina Marcos: “Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) announced late Friday he will run for House majority whip, just hours after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation.”

Mark Meckler: “Ding, dong … John Boehner is gone. Long live the tea party movement.”

Bradford Richardson: “‘Taking care of this leadership issue was a pretty selfless act that Speaker Boehner decided to make a little bit easier for everyone,’ Priebus said told host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 New York on Sunday. ‘I might imagine he would have been able to hang on, but the truth is he’s just not the type of guy to put up with it, so he just said, ‘Forget it, I’ll move on’.'”

And a check of the chatter:

Zoë Carpenter (The Nation): “ Let’s get one thing clear about John Boehner: His problem was not that his position on abortion was too liberal.”

Heather Cox Richardson (Salon): “Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.”

David Lawder (Reuters): “Thus far, a serious challenger to McCarthy has not emerged, though some Republican aides said that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling is weighing a run. A Hensarling spokesman could not be reached for comment.”

Michael McAuliff, Laura Barron-Lopez, and Sam Stein (Huffington Post): “House Speaker John Boehner may be able to leave office on a high note after meeting the pope and potentially averting another government shutdown. But his abrupt departure has many on Capitol Hill fearing it will leave Congress an even worse, more gridlocked institution.

So … right. Good luck with all that. What makes the challenge seem so daunting, of course, is that everything will be obsolete by the time you get through it all. And there is a pervading notion of futility much akin to John Boehner’s speakership; that we might know what has happened, as well as what is expected to happen, does not mean it will happen. This is your House GOP. Enjoy the show. You know. As much as you can.

The Days of Their Lives (Chipotle Changer)

Twitter: David Eldridge of Roll Call and Jonathan Nicholson of Bloomberg BNA discussing a Chipotle's restaurant in the basement of Union Station, Washington, D.C., 24 September 2015.If you’ve ever wondered about the Beltway press, and, you know, let’s face it, no, most people just don’t wonder about the reporters who dig up the little bits and pieces destined to be overlooked in the infotainment synopsis that makes the evening news, well might be a reason you did.

Or didn’t.

Whatever.

Whichever, I guess.

Ladies and gentlemen, David Eldridge of Roll Call and Jonathan Nicholson of Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs:

David Eldridge: Overheard in the newsroom: “There’s a Chipotle in the Union Station basement? That’s a gamechanger.” @rollcall

Jonathan Nicholson: @DavidEldridge @MEPFuller @rollcall It’s on the main floor – the Taco Bell in the basement food court, now THAT’S the game changer.

David Eldridge: @JNicholsonInDC @MEPFuller @rollcall The one in the basement is the SECOND Chipotle in the bldg. Hence the changing of the game.

Jonathan Nicholson: @DavidEldridge @MEPFuller @rollcall TWO Chipotles, one building? That’s Starbucks-style game changing. I did not know – my bad.

We might suspect there’s a reason Nicholson is trying to drag Matt Fuller into it.

Say what?Chipotle’s.

Game-changer.

Even as post-Millennial recursive cynicism it’s flaccid.

Say what we will about the Beltway sausage grinder, but this is the daily grind. Still, though, these are the days of their lives.

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Eldridge, David and Jonathan Nicholson. “Overheard in the office”. Twitter. 24 September 2015.

Something to Keep in Mind

“They have not put forward anything with regard to how we would create more jobs. And so the ball’s still in their court.”

—Speaker John Boehner (R-OH8)

Speaker of the House John Boehner

Okay, time out.

Matt Fuller and J.M. Rieger explain the situation for Roll Call:

Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday it’s up to the White House to make a new proposal before he’ll consider an unemployment benefits extension, as the House left town for two weeks without acting on a bipartisan Senate bill.

The Senate’s passage of an unemployment benefits extension earlier this week doesn’t change the House’s stand on the issue, the Ohio Republican said Thursday morning.

Boehner said he had made it clear to the president in December that an unemployment insurance extension would “have to be paid for and would have to include things that would help get our economy moving.”

“They have not put forward anything with regard to how we would create more jobs,” Boehner said. “And so the ball’s still in their court.”

Asked what package might persuade him to bring an extension to the floor for a vote, Boehner said, “You’ll have to ask the administration,” again blaming the White House for not coming forward with a jobs proposal.

Steve Benen would, of course, disagree with the Speaker:

Sometimes it seems as if politicians aren’t even speaking the same language anymore.

Benen on UnemploymentLook, there’s no reason for Boehner to be this confused. For decades, there was bipartisan and bicameral support for extending jobless benefits during periods of high unemployment. This year, Republicans changed the rules of the game, making new demands that were considered ridiculous as recently as 2010, but Democrats nevertheless played along. It’s why the Senate approved a bill that’s paid for and, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, would create 200,000 jobs this year.

Boehner says that’s not good enough. What would satisfy him? He either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to say – the Speaker instead told reporters yesterday that the unemployed might get relief when the White House correctly guesses what might make Boehner happy. It’s a policy debate with all the high-minded sophistication of kindergarten finger-painting.

And, well, yeah. Any questions? As Benen notes, It might be more amusing if there weren’t 3 million struggling Americans who need this legislation to keep their heads above water.

I would only advise Mr. Benen that Congressional Republicans are not trying to amuse him. Rather, they are busy trying to figure out how to hurt as many Americans as possible while calling it an act of love.

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Fuller, Matt and J. M. Rieger. “Boehner Says Unemployment Extension Is Up to White House”. 218. April 10, 2014.

Benen, Steve. “How not to argue about jobless benefits”. MSNBC. April 11, 2014.

Image credit: Steve Benen.

Something to Keep an Eye On

USCapitol-bw

“What was the point of all that? This just shoots you in the arm! It doesn’t make breakfast at all!”

—Peter Griffin

Sausage. Rube Goldberg. Speak nothing of the breakfast machine.

FamilyGuy-BreakfastMachineThere are more elegant metaphors, but most involve some sort of mythic creatures, sci-fi awesomeness, or simply the hand of God. Oh, wait, I said mythic creatures. I don’t know, maybe we can low-bid for those witches from MacBeth.

Exhibit A: Beltway gossip.

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans. And, it seems, leadership unwittingly became aware of the meetup.

Fuller

The appearance is obvious; Sen. Cruz is already known to be plotting against Speaker Boehner. The question at this point is what he thinks he is working toward.

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