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White House budget director discusses plan to replace Paul Ryan

Maybe Mick Mulvaney should focus his energies on his many other jobs, and leave GOP strategy to others.
Mick Mulvaney
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney listens to a question during a press briefing at the White House, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Washington.

Mick Mulvaney is one busy guy. The South Carolina Republican, for example, is already serving as Donald Trump's budget director, which has traditionally included some time-consuming responsibilities. He's also the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where Mulvaney has been running interference for financial institutions accused of widespread abuses.

In his free time, Mulvaney has even offered advice to banking industry executives on how they can best buy influence and access in the Trump era.

And in case that weren't enough, the Washington Post  reports that Mulvaney even finds time to work on partisan strategies on Capitol Hill, where he was once a member.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney acknowledged having discussions with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about replacing House Speaker Paul D. Ryan before Ryan retires from Congress next year, a conservative newsmagazine reported Monday.The Weekly Standard reported that Mulvaney made the remarks Sunday during a conference sponsored by the publication in Colorado Springs. Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier asked Mulvaney about the prospect of McCarthy succeeding Ryan this year, before the midterm elections, and Mulvaney suggested that it would become a referendum on the top Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi.

As the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, explained, Mulvaney conceded that he'd spoken "privately" to the House majority leader about a scheme in which Ryan would resign; Republican members would elevate McCarthy; and House Democrats would cast votes for Nancy Pelosi, which would apparently become the subject of new attack ads.

"Wouldn't it be great to force a Democrat running in a tight race to have to put up or shut up about voting for Nancy Pelosi eight weeks before an election?" Mulvaney asked. "That's a really, really good vote for us to force if we can figure out how to do it."

As a rule, top White House officials don't generally speak publicly about working behind the scenes to oust a sitting House Speaker, which made Mulvaney's comments stand out as unusual.

But just as interesting are the flaws in the budget director's scheme.

Dave Weigel had a good piece along these lines, noting, for example, that many of the Dems who are skeptical of Pelosi are candidates, not incumbents, so they wouldn't cast votes under Mulvaney's plan. For that matter, there aren't that many current House Democrats who are so worried about their re-election prospects that they'd worry about such a vote.

Besides, Republicans are going to run anti-Pelosi attack ads anyway, whether there's a vote on a new Speaker or not.

But taking a step further, Mulvaney's scheme also assumes Republicans are more or less unified on the next GOP leadership team. They're not. McCarthy is relatively well positioned to lead his party's conference, but there's a core contingent of even-further-to-the-right members who want a far more radical leader, and prefer Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to McCarthy.

In practical terms, if Ryan were forced out ahead of this year's midterm elections, House Republicans would likely fight among themselves at a delicate time, all while trying to put Democrats in an awkward position.

Maybe Mulvaney should focus his energies on his other jobs, and leave GOP strategy to others?