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Ryan, Don’t Run | Kondracke

Ryan has a big decision in front of him. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Ryan has a big decision in front of him. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

It’s not a challenge for Rep. Paul D. Ryan to run for speaker. It’s a suicide mission that will damage — if not destroy — the Wisconsin Republican’s political future and his chance to get America’s economy right. USA Today’s Susan Page had it right on Fox News Sunday about the Ways and Means chairman’s mentor, Jack Kemp: He was the kind of quarterback who, faced with a challenge, would have said “Count me in — send me in, coach.” But it doesn’t follow, as Page said, that Ryan should yield to pressure and run for speaker.  

Besides, there’s a better solution available: John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, should stay until his warring minions anoint another sacrificial lamb — and get stuff done, acting like a statesman and speaker of the House, not just speaker of the Republican Conference.  

As to Ryan, he is, as Page said on Fox, in a unique bargaining position to get the radical-right House Freedom Caucus to promise to stand down from its outrageous demands: That they, one-sixth of the GOP conference, set the rules of the House. That bills be open to endless amendment on the floor. That any funding bill include an end to funding of Planned Parenthood, the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama’s immigration policy and Obamacare. And that any extension of the government’s borrowing ability (latest deadline: Nov. 5) include cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  

If Ryan could exact such a promise, the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t and couldn’t keep it: They’d be accused by Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter of selling out their principles, of joining the RINOs and — the minute Ryan tried to do something reasonable — they’d be after his head the way they got Boehner’s and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s, R-Calif.  

He’d be a failed speaker. He’d have given up his Ways and Means chairmanship and his ability to shepherd tax and entitlement reform, which he rightly regards as the keys to restoring growth and America’s ability to create jobs.  

Boehner can stay on as speaker through this Congress, if necessary. He’s in a unique position to get things done. He can bring any bill to the floor he likes. So he should fashion legislation to extend the debt ceiling, to keep the government funded through next year — maybe to even include extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which is about to expire.  

Then he’d have to find 218 votes for sanity — the alternative being government shutdowns and economic disaster.  

It would put both Democrats and non-tea party Republicans to a huge test with the whole country watching.  

If he won, yes, he’d be depending on Democrats, acting like speaker of the whole House. If he won, Republicans who voted with him would be attacked as sellouts.  

He might lose, but the country would be no worse off than it is now and we’d know who to blame.  

If he won, there’d be an added benefit to him and us: He’d defeat the people who ousted him. And he’d put the Freedom Caucus on the fringe where it belongs.  


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