House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) published a tweet yesterday, eagerly touting some good news: House Republicans will soon have a policy agenda. The message directed readers to this article from Roll Call.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced Wednesday that House Republicans will roll out the six policy papers that make up their “Confident America” agenda one at a time throughout June, starting with ideas to combat poverty.“What you will see with these [releases] are detailed policy papers,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We’re not talking about principles here. This is substance. It’s going to be a clear explanation of the policy changes that are needed in these areas.”
The clarification was unintentionally amusing – you can almost hear Ryan trying to persuade people, effectively saying, “No, really, I mean it” – though it underscores the fact that House Republicans aren’t accustomed to presenting any “substance” of any kind.
The Speaker added, “This agenda is not an exhaustive list of the things that we believe in as Republicans, and it doesn’t cover every issue of public concern. But these are the big ideas that unite all Republicans and address the countries’ priorities.”
We don’t yet have a sense of what the proposals might include, though it’s likely to be a rehash of the usual GOP priorities, but they’ll reportedly cover six areas – poverty, taxes, healthcare, national security, regulations, and constitutional authority – and will be rolled out individually in June.
It’s a safe bet the Republican package won’t include measures borrowed from Donald Trump’s platform – no one should expect a detailed policy paper on banning all foreign Muslims from entering the United States – though Ryan said his staff and the GOP candidate’s staff “talk virtually every day.”
All of this seems at least vaguely encouraging, I suppose, given that House Republicans have shown no real interest in even trying to govern for most of the last decade, but therein lies the key point Ryan left unaddressed. GOP lawmakers have been the majority party in the House of Representatives for more than five years. They’re only now coming up with a handful of policy proposals?
It’s taken House Republicans this long to come up with some “substance” to put forward for public scrutiny? Can the Speaker explain what the GOP majority has been doing since January 2011 if it hasn’t been working on a policy agenda?
Ryan didn’t intend to make this point, but notice the difference between House Republicans and Democrats. When Dems were in the majority, they introduced legislation, held hearings, negotiated, cast votes, etc. They were a regular ol’ governing party, doing what governing parties do.
GOP House members waited five-and-a-half-years to reassure the public that they’re almost ready to present some real “policy papers” that may someday get a vote. Maybe. We’ll see.
I’ll give the Speaker some credit for at least accepting the pretense that the House majority party should have some kind of policy agenda that it wants to pursue. But really, we’re talking about clearing a very low bar.