Scott Wong

Something About the Bill and the Beard

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) holds a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington, 16 December 2015. (Zach Gibson/The New York Times)

So it goes that Scott Wong of The Hill should report on conservative dissatisfaction with the recent spending omnibus Speaker Ryan managed to push through the House:

Outside the Beltway, the right is livid with new Speaker Paul Ryan’s trillion-dollar spending deal with Democrats.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter says Ryan, just seven weeks on the job, is ripe for a primary challenge. “Paul Ryan Betrays America,” blared a headline on the conservative site Breibart.com. And Twitter is littered with references to the Wisconsin Republican’s new “Muslim beard.”

Sounds about right.

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Image note: Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) holds a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington, 16 December 2015. (Zach Gibson/The New York Times)

Wong, Scott. “Fury of the right falls on Ryan”. The Hill. 26 December 2015.

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The Reluctant President (Weather Balloon)

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R-01) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, 6 March 2014.  (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

We might plead that it is almost impossible to stay in front of the tale of the RNC preparing for a brokered convention. Still, though, last week’s Washington Post report and the growing hardline backlash that has fading right-wing star Dr. Ben Carson declaring he would quit the GOP if the Committee organized a floor fight have brought us one of those basic moments, an optic for which the metric is obvious: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan warding off speculation that he will be nominated to run for president.

With GOP presidential hopefuls set to square off in Las Vegas, Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday quashed speculation from House colleagues and the media that he could be drafted as the party’s nominee in the event of a deadlocked convention next summer.

“That is ridiculous talk. That’s is just dumb speculation,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a Politico breakfast. “I’m doing this job.

“You guys should just stop all that speculation.”

Several House Republicans told The Hill last week they see a scenario in which Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, could end up winning the nomination if no candidate wraps up a majority of delegates by the time the convention rolls around next July.

(Wong)

This is one of those occasions when you can see the script coming, but shake it off because, you know, come on, just how cynical can we be, right?

Thus, when the Reluctant Speaker who would become the Reluctant Nominee and thus the Reluctant President finds himself pointing out that the question is based on straw fantasies grasped by desperate Party hands, it is not so much that we ought to believe him, but also the fact that the basic proposition itself is so extraordinary even in terms of an extraordinary cycle. Extra-extraordinary. Extraordinary squared.

Something about Carcharodon goes here.

This is your Republican Party.

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Image note: Congressman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, 6 March 2014. Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore.

Costa, Robert and Tom Hamburger. “GOP preparing for contested convention”. The Washington Post. 10 December 2015.

Easley, Jonathan. “Conservative backlash grows against brokered convention”. The Hill. 11 December 2015.

McCaskill, Nolan D. and Kyle Cheney. “Ben Carson blasts RNC, threatens to leave Republican Party”. Politico. 11 December 2015.

Wong, Scott. “Ryan quashes talk that he’ll be GOP nominee”. The Hill. 15 December 2015.

Actually Rather Quite Unexpected (McCarthy Meltdown Mix)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pauses as he speaks about foreign policy during the John Hay Initiative, Monday, Sept. 28,2015, at a hotel in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

And then there is this:

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has dropped out of elections for House Speaker, shocking Capitol Hill and raising questions about who can possibly lead the House Republican conference.

(Wong)

Right. Good luck. We’ll try to figure this out as it progresses.

If it’s Thursday, this must be your United States House of Representatives.

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Image Note House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pauses as he speaks about foreign policy during the John Hay Initiative, Monday 28 September 2015, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Wong, Scott. “Shock! McCarthy drops from Speaker’s race”. The Hill. 8 October 2015.

The Floor Show

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at dawn in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

Really:

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23), then House Majority Leader, in 2014. (Original photo by Molly Riley)House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s message to dozens of House conservatives was succinct: “I’m not John Boehner.”

McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been desperately trying to distance himself from Boehner (R-Ohio), the man he wants to replace as Speaker of the House. His latest attempt came Tuesday night as he made his pitch to a dozens of conservative lawmakers at the Capitol Hill Club.

“I’m not John Boehner. I’m going to run things differently. I’m my own man,” McCarthy said, according to one conservative in the room, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

(Wong)

It really is something of a dangerous phrase for Republicans, purporting to be one’s own man. One would think Jeb Bush would offer enough examples to make the point, but this is Kevin McCarthy.

(more…)

Boehner’s Last Stand

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8)

Well, you know. Because:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03), circa July 2014.  Uncredited photo via The Hill.House GOP leadership races took new twists and turns on Monday, just days before rank-and-file Republicans head behind closed doors to pick the next Speaker.

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) postponed elections for majority leader and whip at the behest of conservatives who argued that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) might lose the Speaker’s race and end up keeping his current job.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) held court with reporters for nearly an hour, capping a three-day media blitz to promote his underdog bid for Speaker.

(Wong)

No, really. What about this isn’t Classic … Speaker … Boehner?

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Wong, Scott. “Fresh twists roil House GOP races”. The Hill. 5 October 2015.

House Minutiae

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX05) in 2013 official House photo.

A passing note yesterday included Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX05), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. And we also might have mentioned something about trying to keep up with all cacophonous news and analysis following Speaker Boehner’s resignation announcement.

Conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee, won’t run for leadership, a senior GOP source said Monday.

Hensarling will pass on a bid for both Speaker and majority leader following Ohio Republican John Boehner’s surprise announcement Friday that he would relinquish the Speaker’s gavel and step down from Congress on Oct. 30.

He will instead back a fellow conservative, Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) in the race for majority leader, the No. 2 job, according to a senior GOP lawmaker who received a call from Hensarling over the weekend.

“He’s not running for anything, it seems,” said a second GOP lawmaker.

(Wong)

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)And having attended the latter, we can now scratch the former off the list of too many tales to properly attend.

Meanwhile, Rep. Price (GA-06) finds himself in a contest with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA-01) and GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05). Stay tuned.

Or not. The outcomes can always be said to have been inevitable once they are done, and in practical terms of whether or not anything useful gets done the answer is the same, anyway; and the only remaining question has to do with just how dignified or otherwise House Republicans intend to make this show.

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Image note: Top ― Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX05) in 2013 official House photo. Right ― Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA05) speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Friday, March 28, 2014. (Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

Brunner, Jim. “Boehner exit a chance for Spokane’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers to move up?” The Seattle Times. 25 September 2015.

Wong, Scott. “Hensarling to pass on leadership bid”. The Hill. 28 September 2015.

Your House of Republican Chaos

Speaker Boehner announced his resignation 25 September 2015.

Follow the bouncing something, as the spectacle inside the House GOP seems a performance for the ages. As the factions line up, Speaker Boehner’s allies are scorching the insurgency:

GOP lawmakers who’ve stood by Boehner’s side throughout his rocky five-year tenure as Speaker bitterly blamed the right flank for forcing a contested leadership race less than a year after the party won control of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

A fired-up House Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), speaking not long after Boehner dropped the bombshell at a Friday conference meeting that he’ll leave Congress at the end of next month, ripped into hard-line conservatives.

He accused them of opposing Boehner at every turn, and noted they have “never had a horse of their own.”

“Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to hang one. We need a few more carpenters around here. Everybody knows it,” Dent said off the House floor.

Leadership allies are frustrated by what they see as a repeated exercise in futility.

(Marcos)

And the hardliners posture:

A co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus has a warning for any Republican hoping to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): No one will get the promotion without our blessing.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a sharp critic of Boehner, said Friday that there are roughly 40 members of the group — and another 20 conservatives outside of it — who won’t back any new Speaker who fails their litmus test for conservative purity. And the group’s leadership endorsements, he warned, will be “a collective, corporate decision.”

“We have enough votes in the House Freedom Caucus to prevent anybody from being Speaker. We will be a voting bloc,” Huelskamp said.

“We’re looking for someone who, number one, has conservative principles and actually can articulate them, but also … follows through on John Boehner’s [2011] promise … [to] open up this House and let conservatives have a shot at things,” he added. “And at the end of the day, the Democrats had more shot at amendments than conservatives. So we’ve gotta talk about process as well.”

(Lillis)

And Rep. Daniel Webster (FL-10) pretends his gavel ambitions have a chance of success, while other House players scramble to fall up the ladder.

This is the point at which we are supposed to make some sort of joke about things either starting or ceasing to make sense, and it is our shame to disappoint you; there is no baseline by which the idea of making sense makes any sense.

(more…)

The Not-Quite Silence of the Moment

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

And now it gets interesting … er …ah … proverbially. You know. Never mind:

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) has declared his candidacy to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as Speaker.

“My goal is for the House of Representatives to be based on principle, not on power,” Webster said in a statement. “Every Member of Congress deserves a seat at the table to be involved in the process. I will continue fighting for this to become a reality in Washington, and will be running for Speaker of the House.”

(Richardson)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for the upcoming session of Congress on Thursday, 13 November 2014.  (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)House custom would see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) ascend to the gavel, and early rumors of a potential challenge from Majority Whip Steve Scalise were undone when the Republican from Louisiana’s First announced he was after McCarthy’s current job. Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are distancing themselves from challenging McCarthy’s ascension, and radio host Mark Levin is trying to rally public outcry against McCarthy.

This could certainly get interesting.

(more…)

Oklahoma Rising

The crowd gathered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Wednesday, 15 July 2015, hoping to glimpse President Obama as he arrived at his hotel, included protesters waving Confederate flags.  (Photo: Getty Images)

This is getting out of hand.

One way to tell the situation is out of hand is that Republican Congressmen Tom Cole (R-4) and Frank Lucas (R-3) are willing to make a stand:

Two Oklahoma Republican congressmen ripped protesters in their state who greeted President Obama in Oklahoma City by waving Confederate flags, calling their actions “disrespectful,” “embarrassing” and “inappropriate.”

“I was shocked and disappointed by those who showed up to wave Confederate flags soon after President Obama arrived in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a senior House Republican, said in a statement to The Hill. “Their actions were not only disappointing but incredibly disrespectful, insensitive and embarrassing to the entire state.

“The unacceptable behavior displayed by these individuals certainly does not reflect the values and views of the vast majority of Oklahomans,” Cole added. “No president should ever be confronted by such behavior, especially when the purpose of the visit was meant to celebrate and recognize some of our state’s greatest achievements.”

Rep. Frank Lucas, another Oklahoma Republican who is close to leadership, said in an interview: “Free speech is an amazing thing. Unfortunately this was an inappropriate use of it.”

Obama traveled to Oklahoma to visit a federal prison, part of his push to overhaul the criminal justice system. He also rolled out a new pilot program aimed at bringing high-speed internet to low-income households.

But when he arrived at his hotel in Oklahoma City Wednesday night, about 10 protesters in the crowd greeted him by waving the Confederate flag. Before Obama’s visit, protesters gathered along an interstate highway near Durant, Oklahoma, and flew the battle flag.

It is easy enough to suggest Messrs. Cole and Lucas have every reason to “move past the flag flap”, as Scott Wong explained for The Hill. After all, the Civil War ended in 1865; Oklahoma was not a state until 1907, nor even a Territory until 1890. Which in turn leads to the strange point that the Confederate flag actually flew over the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma city for over twenty years, until a 1988 renovation of the state house. And while that might make it harder for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to blame Texas―

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who greeted Obama on the airport tarmac, attempted to distance the Sooner State from the flag-waving protesters. Her spokesman suggested many of them drove over the stateline from Texas.

―denouncing this particular demonstration is an easy call for Republicans, and has the added benefit of actually being the right thing to do.

Then again, blaming the protest in Oklahoma City on Texas? This is another sign that the situation is out of hand, and has the added benefit of actually being really, really funny.

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Image note: The crowd gathered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Wednesday, 15 July 2015, hoping to glimpse President Obama as he arrived at his hotel, included protesters waving Confederate flags. (Photo: Getty Images)

Wong, Scott. “Republicans criticize Confederate flags at Obama visit”. The Hill.