When House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a presidential-campaign-style video about his political vision, it prompted quite a bit of chatter about his national intentions. After all, it was difficult to imagine why else the Republican congressman – who’s no doubt aware of the 2016 chatter surrounding his name – would deliberately cause such a splash.
Such speculation, the Speaker and his team argue, gets it all wrong. The New York Times reported yesterday that Ryan is eagerly crafting his own policy agenda and national platform, not in anticipation of a 2016 presidential campaign, but rather to create “a personality and policy alternative to run alongside” the Republicans’ presidential ticket – especially given the likelihood that the GOP will nominate an unpopular candidate who’s likely to lose.
“These moves could prove useful to rank-and-file Republicans seeking a life raft in Trumpian seas,” the Times added.
It’s still an open question whether this explanation is sincere, but the same Times piece also highlighted just how far Paul Ryan is prepared to go while creating this GOP life raft.
[E]ven if [Ted Cruz] prevails, Mr. Ryan may still offer a supplemental set of talking points for the rest of his party to follow.For example, if the Republican nominee does not provide an alternative to the Affordable Care Act – something Republicans have failed to do since it passed in 2010 – Mr. Ryan intends to do so, just as he will lay out an anti-poverty plan.
The parallels with Lucy telling Charlie Brown that this time he really will kick the football should be obvious.
House Republicans have been in the majority for nearly six years, and in that time, Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders have said repeatedly that they’ll definitely get around to creating a policy agenda one of these days. Many of those same Republicans have been vowing to come up with an “Obamacare” alternative for seven years.
Now, however, the far-right House Speaker “intends” to follow through. It’s probably fair to say Ryan’s intentions are irrelevant.
We’ve been down this road many, many times. Paul Ryan was going to unveil his ACA alternative in 2014. That didn’t happen. Then he was going to finally produce a reform bill in 2015. That didn’t happen, either.
Every time House Republicans assure the public their amazing new health care package is on the way, they end up unveiling nothing. That has been ongoing since June 2009.
If I had to guess, the problem isn’t necessarily dishonesty. In all likelihood, GOP lawmakers would love to have a health care plan of their own – no one likes to appear ridiculous while breaking promises – but haven’t because they don’t know how to craft one.
As New York’s Jon Chait explained yesterday, “The reason the dog keeps eating the Republicans’ health-care homework is very simple: It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public. People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick (meaning their health-care costs are high), unusually poor (their incomes are low), or both. Covering them means finding the money to pay for the cost of their medical treatment. You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.”
Or as a Republican Hill staffer famously put it in 2014, “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act…. To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA.”
Ryan “intends” to unveil a Republican plan this year. Somehow, I’m not worried about him proving me wrong.