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The Paul Ryan Dilemma

The inside baseball that goes on within Congress is of little import to the casual observer of politics; one can care a great deal about policy ideas that spill forth from Congress without having any idea about the rules and constraints that govern the committee and subcommittee processes within the House. 

But rising star Paul Ryan—whom many here on Ricochet argue should not be considered for the position of VP candidate because we need him exactly where he is—is about to butt into Republican-imposed constraints that would make it impossible for him to stay exactly where he is.   Jonathan Strong at Roll Call explains:

Republican chairmanship term limits are bringing a dilemma for the party in the next Congress: whether to break the rules for a promising intellectual leader of the party while denying his ambitious colleagues the same opportunity.

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is term-limited at the end of this Congress, having ascended to the ranking member position on the panel in 2006. Republicans count time served as chairman and ranking member toward term limits.

GOP officials and aides said they expect significant pressure for the Steering Committee to grant Ryan, the public face of House Republicans on budget and economic issues, a waiver from the six-year term limits rule, allowing him to stay on.

That’s especially so because there’s no other obvious place for the Wisconsin Republican to ascend to in the House.

There are a few things to know about these committee chairmanship term limits:  First, they were instituted by Speaker Gingrich during the 104th Congress as a way to wrest away power from committee and subcommittee chairs by limiting their independence and weakening the seniority system in the House.  These term limits gave the Speaker additional influence in the committee assignment and chair selection process, and at the time, the imposition of these term limits was an essential ingredient in getting Gingrich’s Contract through Congress.  

Second, there is a way around the term limits — the Steering Committee and the House Leadership can grant waivers to individual chairmen.  But history shows that Republican leadership has been loath to grant  waivers to applicants.

As I say, inside baseball.  But it’s a dilemma which could affect whether Paul Ryan can continue to be influential from the House.

  1. genferei

    Ryan is influential because he’s Ryan, not because of the obscure role he inhabits.

    While President Romney is closing down some executive departments, how about Speaker [Repub] closes down some congressional committees?

  2. Beasley
    Steven Potter Except, the waiver is just as much a part of the rules as the term limit, if the post is accurate.  As long as the use of waivers was in place prior to all this I don’t see a problem with using it for Rep. Ryan. (…..)

    I have no firm position on term limits.  It may help prevent permanency among elected officials, but it also keeps the good ones (albeit few) out of the places we need them. · 9 hours ago

    For me, it boils down to this, Ryan’s shoes will be hard to fill, and not having someone of his character as chairman of the budget committee is in and of itself a net loss for the conservatism in America. However, the greater loss is believing that any one man is the solution. Men are flawed and the ultimate goal is to limit their influence on our lives, not simply pick the most capable to rule over us. Capable and decent men do their worst harm in allowing the populous to make them into saviors.

  3. Keith Preston

    Many presidential candidates have said that they intend to give important duties to their veeps.  Bush did, and I’m grateful he did…Obama did not…and we know how that would have worked out.

    I would only want Romney to make Ryan his veep if he delegated important backing for him to spearhead the necessary effort to avoid our coming fiscal crisis.  If he only was willing to give lip service to Ryan’s potential role, than forget it.

    As a former businessman, this kind of arrangement between Romney and Ryan might be a natural.   Let’s see what Romney decides…

  4. liberal jim
    Paul A. Rahe: They should make him Speaker. · 9 hours ago

    This parasite who evidently thinks growing spending at a 3% rate is reducing the federal government is yet one more Republican career politician who makes frequent reference to the Founder’s intents.   I am not a student of history, but I don’t recall any of the founders longing for the days when our country would be governed by professional politicians.  It is about time this hypocritical bum left office and started doing some honest work.   He is, like most career Washington  politicians part of the problem.

  5. Pilli

    Republicans, always desperate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will “maintain the rule” and move Ryan out of the chairmanship.  He is desperately needed there but that won’t matter.

    What we really need is Congressional (both House and Senate) term limits not just “inside baseball” term limits for Republican House Members.

  6. Beasley
    Pilli: Republicans, always desperate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will “maintain the rule” and move Ryan out of the chairmanship.  He is desperately needed there but that won’t matter.

    Republicans will have a hard time defending the “Rule of Law” if they cannot even abide by the “Rule of Rules.” In my opinion, this is not the only place that Ryan can be usefull. Hopefully the leaders can see how effective of a bludgeon he and his budget have been against the Dems and will replace him with someone of equal talent and conviction. If there is no one capable of carrying on where Ryan left off, then 0ur troubles are far greater than a single chairmanship.
  7. David Williamson

    Too bad he didn’t run for President.

    VP will be fine, though.

  8. Doug Kimball

    Isn’t this situation exactly why there can be waivers? 

  9. Ed G.
    Beasley

    Pilli: Republicans, always desperate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will “maintain the rule” and move Ryan out of the chairmanship.  He is desperately needed there but that won’t matter.

    Republicans will have a hard time defending the “Rule of Law” if they cannot even abide by the “Rule of Rules.” In my opinion, this is not the only place that Ryan can be usefull. Hopefully the leaders can see how effective of a bludgeon he and his budget have been against the Dems and will replace him with someone of equal talent and conviction. If there is no one capable of carrying on where Ryan left off, then 0ur troubles are far greater than a single chairmanship. · 1 minute ago

    Yes, the rules seems sensible; respecting them even when it may not be advantageous for our side is the right thing to do. If Ryan and/or that particular chairmanship are that critical then we are indeed in for much trouble.

  10. James Of England

    Ryan’s authority, as a practical matter, is not merely ex officio, but mostly stems from Ryan’s awesomeness. If he were replaced by someone (John Campbell? Dave Camp? Mike Simpson or Jason Chaffetz if Romney loses?) who was not a prima donna, would not cause scandal, and understood that Ryan remained the true master, I’m not sure that’d end up being a big deal. Honestly, at the moment, Paul Ryan could probably leave Congress and still dominate the party.

    As proof, compare Ryan’s stature with John Spratt, his predecessor. For 4 years, Spratt held one of the country’s most important offices, and he’s still a name you have to explain when you’re talking about policy, even with people who are kind of wonks. The last Republican, Jim Nussle was better known for his failed gubernatorial bid and time in Bush’s OMB than for his 6 years in the office Ryan’s held for 2. Their prestige was just a million miles apart; there was no “Nussle Plan”, or, at least, I haven’t heard of one, but then again it seems entirely plausible that I wouldn’t have.

  11. billy
    James Of England: Ryan’s authority, as a practical matter, is not merely ex officio, but mostly stems from Ryan’s awesomeness. If he were replaced by someone (John Campbell? Dave Camp? Mike Simpson or Jason Chaffetz if Romney loses?) who was not a prima donna, would not cause scandal, and understood that Ryan remained the true master, I’m not sure that’d end up being a big deal. Honestly, at the moment, Paul Ryan could probably leave Congress and still dominate the party….

    A

    Everything you write rings true, so why not make it simple and grant Ryan the waiver?

  12. Cutlass

    So these rules were put in place by Republicans and only apply to Republicans? And there is a waiver provision? Why is this an issue? Isn’t the purpose of a political party to effectively advance an agenda? Yet, we would to allow our own internal rules to put those efforts in jeopardy. It’s like The Yankees benching Derek Jeter in the World Series because he forgot to shave.  

    We’re up against ruthless political foes willing to lie, cheat, steal and demagogue our party out of existence and this is what the people to whom we entrust our freedoms are bickering about? These are serious times, folks. 

    Ideally, I say keep Ryan where he is, although I wouldn’t mind Secretary of the Treasury. Not only would Ryan be wasted as VP, he doesn’t have the flair needed to be Romney’s running mate. He’s articulate and he would excite any conservative who values substance, but I don’t see him stirring a crowd or being an effective attack dog. 

    The way I see it, Rubio gives us a fighting chance. Christie maybe. However, if Romney goes for a “safe” pick we’re doomed. 

  13. Tom Lindholtz

    Ryan is a tool, a smart tool maybe, but a tool nonetheless, who does not have to stones to put country above self. I am sick to death of “politicians” who are more interested in what they can do for themselves than in willingness to serve their country. There was a time years ago when I offered my country a blank check good for any amount up to and including my life. There are thousands of young people who still do that today. When a person turns down the opportunity to serve their country, they are worse than useless. Paul Ryan may be a smart guy, but the world is full of selfish smart guys. We don’t need him to add to their numbers. We need leaders. And he ain’t it.

  14. Steven Potter
    Beasley

    Pilli: Republicans, always desperate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will “maintain the rule” and move Ryan out of the chairmanship.  He is desperately needed there but that won’t matter.

    Republicans will have a hard time defending the “Rule of Law” if they cannot even abide by the “Rule of Rules.”

    Except, the waiver is just as much a part of the rules as the term limit, if the post is accurate.  As long as the use of waivers was in place prior to all this I don’t see a problem with using it for Rep. Ryan.  It may not be a good idea if they’re coming up with the use of waivers to help keep him in the position.  Coming up with new rules to benefit one’s side now can be one’s undoing later on down the road.

    I have no firm position on term limits.  It may help prevent permanency among elected officials, but it also keeps the good ones (albeit few) out of the places we need them.

  15. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    They should make him Speaker.

  16. James Of England
    billy

    Paul A. Rahe: They should make him Speaker. · 8 minutes ago

    I disagree. Ryan has placed himself as the principle spokesman for the most important issue of our times, namely, “There is a fiscal meltdown coming, and we have to act now.” Running for VP or the Speakership will simply pull him off message and serve as a distraction.

    Ryan is the right man, in the right job, at the right time. · 54 minutes ago

    Agreed. a: We don’t know if he’d be good at the grubby wheeling and dealing that constitutes the meat and two veg of the Speakership.

    b: We do know that he’s very good, indeed vital, for stuff that the wheeling and dealing would distract from. We want him to have the time to seek out the Senator Wydens, to understand the budgetary ramifications of the fine details of Title II of the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, and to educate his fellow members, rather than using his time with them for horse trading.

  17. Terrell David

    How about United States Secretary of the Treasury.  

  18. billy
    Paul A. Rahe: They should make him Speaker. · 8 minutes ago

    I disagree. Ryan has placed himself as the principle spokesman for the most important issue of our times, namely, “There is a fiscal meltdown coming, and we have to act now.” Running for VP or the Speakership will simply pull him off message and serve as a distraction.

    Ryan is the right man, in the right job, at the right time.

  19. Sisyphus
    Paul A. Rahe: They should make him Speaker. · 1 hour ago

    I can’t imagine Romney picking him for VP. When George H. W. Bush went shopping for a Veep, he had to rob the cradle to find one that would not upstage his notorious lack of charisma and presence. Dan Quayle has been the butt of a lot of cruel and unwarranted nonsense over the years, but in his youth he served the critical function of not outshining the top of the ticket. McCain forgot the rule and look what happened.

    I expect Romney to follow suit and find some nice, safe sapling that is confused over all this Tea Party nonsense but is sure that there’s nothing wrong in Washington that a little RomneyCare can’t fix. Wouldn’t want to be divisive, after all.

    He would be brilliant as Speaker, but the Parties of Washington would never stand for that. 

  20. billy
    James Of England

    billy

    Paul A. Rahe: They should make him Speaker. · 8 minutes ago

    I disagree. Ryan has placed himself as the principle spokesman for the most important issue of our times, namely, “There is a fiscal meltdown coming, and we have to act now.” Running for VP or the Speakership will simply pull him off message and serve as a distraction.

    Ryan is the right man, in the right job, at the right time. · 54 minutes ago

    Agreed. a: We don’t know if he’d be good at the grubby wheeling and dealing that constitutes the meat and two veg of the Speakership.

    b: We do know that he’s very good, indeed vital, for stuff that the wheeling and dealing would distract from. We want him to have the time to seek out the Senator Wydens, to understand the budgetary ramifications of the fine details of Title II of the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, and to educate his fellow members, rather than using his time with them for horse trading. · 3 hours ago

    Finally, we agree.

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