Nearly two weeks ago, Politico’s Glenn Thrush asked a Paul Ryan ally why the Wisconsin Republican is so reluctant to become the Speaker of the House. “Because he’s not a f—ing moron,” the congressman’s friend replied.
For those who don’t follow Capitol Hill closely, this might seem counterintuitive. At least on paper, the Speaker of the House is the pinnacle of congressional power. The lawmaker who wields that gavel has considerable influence over policy; he or she gets an amazing office and Secret Service protection; he or she gets to control which bills reach the floor and when, and he or she is even second in line for the presidency should a disaster strike. Wouldn’t every lawmaker want that kind of opportunity, especially in the face of party-wide begging?
The answer is, not really – at least not with a radicalized House Republican majority in power.
Paul Ryan realizes, for example, that governing with this GOP majority is effectively impossible, and even trying would likely ruin his future ambitions for national office.
But there are also more practical, less obvious considerations. The Washington Post reported last week, “For Ryan, father of three young kids, there’s another unappealing aspect of the job. The speakership is a more-than-full-time role, requiring immense travel and fundraising, especially with 2016 nearing. Compared to his current routine, which includes weekends at home and an ability to avoid the spotlight, taking the reins would increase his workload substantially.”
Currently, Ryan’s fundraising burdens are practically non-existent: he’s a popular congressman in his “red” Wisconsin district. As Speaker, however, Ryan would be expected to raise tens of millions of dollars for his party – per election cycle.
It’s what made this Bloomberg Politics report over the weekend that much more interesting.
Republicans imploring Paul Ryan to become U.S. House speaker are dangling a pledge that he can skip the job’s frantic fundraising duties. But it’ll cost them upwards of $35 million per election cycle.That’s what outgoing Speaker John Boehner raised, through a grueling nights-and-weekends pace that had him trekking from Florida to Alaska and places in between throughout the 2014 campaign.
This is no small detail. Ryan sees Boehner’s grueling travel/fundraising schedule and understandably says, “I’ll pass.” But in response, party officials are effectively telling Ryan, “Take the job and we’ll relieve you of this part of the gig.”
It’s a testament to Republican desperation that the party would even try to sweeten the pot this way. Indeed, the Bloomberg Politics piece added that if Ryan skips this aspect of the job, it would hurt the GOP’s campaign finances and even weaken his position by failing to “put his star quality to work for lawmakers desperate for campaign cash.”
The article quoted Ron Peters, a University of Oklahoma political scientist, saying, “A speaker who doesn’t raise money for his members would really lose a lot of his power…. You’ve got to have those levers of power to get anything done in the House of Representatives.”
As for the state of Paul’s thinking, CBS News reported overnight that the congressman is now “open” to the idea of being Speaker, but he has a concern he expects to be met: “Ryan’s confidants tell CBS News he will not horse trade with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 or so deeply conservative members who have been demanding changes to House rules and other very specific promises from candidates for Speaker in exchange for their support. Ryan’s confidants say he is not going to negotiate for a job he never sought, and that he has a record of conservative leadership that should be clear to every member of the GOP conference.”
One assumes the right-wing faction, which had in a hand in forcing John Boehner’s retirement and Kevin McCarthy’s withdrawal, won’t care for Ryan’s posture.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet behind closed doors for a caucus meeting on Wednesday morning. Watch this space.