House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23, 2016.
Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Paul Ryan accidentally tells the truth, rejects bipartisanship

The Republicans’ recent health care effort ended in ignominious failure late last week, prompting a variety of GOP leaders to say they’re eager to move on to other issues, most notably tax reform. And yet, many in the party continue to say the health care fight isn’t in their rear-view mirror just yet.

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There’s been quite a bit of chatter this week about Republicans quietly renewing negotiations over health care, looking to salvage the GOP initiative. Indeed, Wall Street watchers noticed yesterday that hospital stocks saw a sharp decline, late in the afternoon, following a report that House Republicans might vote on a new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, possibly as early as next week.

I’m skeptical anything will come of this – the intra-party divisions that existed last week haven’t gone away – but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) offered some insights as to why he and his members are still trying to push this boulder uphill.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said he does not want President Donald Trump to work with Democrats on new legislation for revamping the country’s health insurance system, commonly called Obamacare.

In an interview with “CBS This Morning” that will air on Thursday, Ryan said he fears the Republican Party, which failed last week to come together and agree on a healthcare overhaul, is pushing the president to the other side of the aisle so he can make good on campaign promises to redo Obamacare.
Referring to Trump’s newfound willingness to talk to Democrats about possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, Ryan told CBS, “I don’t want that to happen.” The Speaker added that if the White House were to pursue bipartisan policymaking, “that’s hardly a conservative thing.”

This has all the makings of a Michael Kinsley Moment: a politician making a mistake by accidentally telling the truth.

Indeed, even some Republicans were taken aback by Paul Ryan’s unexpected candor. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Twitter this morning, “We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem.”

At a certain level, I can appreciate the reasoning behind the Wisconsin congressman’s concerns. If Donald Trump sat down with Democratic leaders to have substantive negotiations over health care policy, Paul Ryan knows – in fact, we all know – it’d be very easy for Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and others to exploit the president’s ignorance and receive all kinds of concessions.

Indeed, Ryan knows this because he’s already exploited Trump’s lack of preparedness, getting him to embrace a health care plan that broke every promise Trump made to the country as a candidate.

But that doesn’t make the Speaker’s comments any easier to defend. It’d be one thing if Ryan privately told members of the House Freedom Caucus, “Let’s work something out before Trump starts talking to Democrats”; it’s something else for the Speaker of the House to tell a national television audience he’s opposed to bipartisan policymaking. And yet, here we are.

Health Care and Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan accidentally tells the truth, rejects bipartisanship