Ryan and Reconciliation Is a Powerful Combination

 
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 6, 2014.Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

As of this writing House Ways and Means chairman Paul Ryan has not decided whether to run for Speaker. He has been bombarded by all the Republican factions. Even Mitt Romney says the Wisconsinite can unify the Republican conference and take the job. I applaud Ryan’s leadership and policy skills and think he would make a good speaker.

But there’s a backstory to the current chaos of the GOP conference and the withdrawal of Kevin McCarthy from the speakership race. The GOP leadership in the House and Senate has failed to pass legislation to repeal the Obama agenda and put the measures on the president’s desk. If he vetoes them, so be it. We go to 2016. But it’s all been broken promises.

Former Reagan and George H.W. Bush speechwriter Peter Robinson just reminded readers on the Ricochet website of an interview he had with Kevin McCarthy before the 2014 midterms.

Robinson: “You will pass a reform agenda, putting bill after bill on President Obama’s desk?” (Italics mine.)

McCarthy: “Yeah, that’s our job.” (Italics mine again.)

It never happened. No bills passed by the House and Senate to repeal Obamacare. No pro-growth tax reform (especially corporate tax reform). No broad-based energy bill. No bill to retract Obama’s illegal executive immigration actions.

This failure has enraged the Republican grassroots and has sent three outsiders — Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina — to the top of the GOP presidential field.

What have the congressional Republicans been waiting for?

Well, according to ace Washington policy analyst Dan Clifton of Strategas, the Ryan-led Ways and Means committee has been moving on three pieces of reconciliation legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and target specific pieces of Obamacare for repeal. And Clifton notes that reconciliation legislation requires just 51 votes in the Senate. Sure, Obama would veto this. But at least the GOP would signal its intentions should they win the White House in 2016.

And with Boehner on the way out, House Republicans have now developed a laundry list of reconciliation provisions to repeal the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the medical-device tax, the Cadillac tax, IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board), and the auto-enrollment requirement that forces small businesses to enroll full-time employees in Obamacare.

Good news.

But what happened to tax reform, particularly corporate tax reform? This would be the single strongest stimulant to the economy, which is showing dangerous signs of yet another slowdown inside the already sub-par recovery.

There are three easy pieces here. First, slash the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 40 percent and permit small business pass-through S-corps to pay the lower C-corp rate. This has been proposed by Donald Trump. Second, allow for full cash expensing of new business investment as a tax deduction. FedEx CEO Fred Smith says this by itself would generate a strong business-investment recovery. Third, pass a repatriation provision to bring back the roughly $2 trillion of U.S. multinational cash stashed overseas (to avoid double and triple taxation) and turn the whole system from worldwide to territorial taxation. Jeb Bush has proposed the second and third parts here, to his credit.

I spoke with Paul Ryan a few days ago (coincidentally the day before McCarthy bowed out), and he worried that Obama would never sign a pass-through small-business tax cut. He also worried that the Senate would never pass broad-based business tax reform. “The leadership will never do it,” he said. (Orrin Hatch from the Senate Finance Committee and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell would have to play ball.) He also expressed concern about the Byrd rule inside reconciliation that requires tax-and-spend-and-debt packages to reduce budget deficits.

But if you go back and read the history of reconciliation, you’ll see that the Byrd rule can be whatever you want it to be. Republicans and Democrats have defined it and redefined it.

And if a reconciliation provision is deemed to be “extraneous,” any senator can raise a procedural objection that would be ruled on by the presiding officer on the advice of the Senate parliamentarian. But the presiding officer need not follow the advice of the parliamentarian. And the parliamentarian can be replaced by the Senate majority leader.

When we talked this week Ryan didn’t seem to be in a mood to be all that aggressive. And when I suggested that defunding Obamacare could be put into the same reconciliation bill as corporate tax reform, he didn’t say yes or no — he decided to keep his own counsel.

But the moral of the story for the post-Boehner period is that a Speaker Paul Ryan along with the legislative strategy of reconciliation and a Senate leadership that plays ball can solve the economy and the GOP’s grassroots revolt. What are they waiting for?

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  1. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Speaker Paul Ryan plus reconciliation plus actual communication could be a powerful combination. Ryan’s a much more articulate communicator of conservative ideas. If conservatives hear him pushing back aggressively and effectively in the war of ideas and words, they will trust him a little more on tactics.

    • #1
  2. TerMend Inactive
    TerMend
    @TeresaMendoza

    I am so sick and tired of pundits criticizing the “grassroots” or “base” or “Tea Partiers” for being angry that the GOPe didn’t enact a conservative agenda since taking over the Senate.  Newsflash: We are not stupid. We understand what a presidential veto is. But — as illustrated in this post — we were told that bill after bill would land on the President’s desk, even if he vetoed every one. We had a chance to illustrate the differences between the parties’ agendas and philosophies ahead of the 2016 election.  And the GOPe affirmatively chose not to do it.  THAT is why we are angry.

    • #2
  3. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    TerMend: But — as illustrated in this post — we were told that bill after bill would land on the President’s desk, even if he vetoed every one. We had a chance to illustrate the differences between the parties’ agendas and philosophies ahead of the 2016 election. And the GOPe affirmatively chose not to do it. THAT is why we are angry.

    So Ryan — the one who has actually been working on something substantial to put on the President’s desk, and who means it, and will work to get the same thing to the next President too — is Ryan perhaps the answer?

    But he can’t take away the filibuster. That is in McConnell’s court. And while McCarthy overpromised — and that matters — should they dump the filibuster simply to get a bill vetoed?

    On the biggest of these issues — the ones that aren’t a matter of leverage but are simply a dead letter with this president, like Obamacare repeal — it matters very little whether they die on his desk or in the Senate. Get Democratic senators on record, especially the new ones who weren’t there to vote for Obamacare the first time. They will face re-election; Obama will not.

    • #3
  4. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Excellent post, Larry.  All valid questions.

    • #4
  5. Tedley Member
    Tedley
    @Tedley

    100% agree with Leigh and Whiskey Sam. Can we blame the leadership’s unwillingness to proceed on everything they promised on the Chamber of Commerce? Or simply on the fact that they’re now part of the D.C. establishment?

    • #5
  6. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    Hear! Hear!  I agree with the post and everyone who has commented so far.

    • #6
  7. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    And with Boehner on the way out, House Republicans have now developed a laundry list of reconciliation provisions to repeal the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the medical-device tax, the Cadillac tax, IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board), and the auto-enrollment requirement that forces small businesses to enroll full-time employees in Obamacare.

    I note with disgust that missing from this list is what came to be known as the Vitter Amendment, which would have mandated that congressional staff live under the same Obamacare rules as everyone else and not receive special subsidies to “ease the pain” the law inflicts on the American people. That should have been first on the list.

    I’m sure our noble representatives hoped we had forgotten about that little “special interest” ploy.

    • #7
  8. BuckeyeSam Inactive
    BuckeyeSam
    @BuckeyeSam

    Pass on Ryan. He’s an amnesty shill.

    • #8
  9. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    I am so sick and tired of pundits criticizing the “grassroots” or “base” or “Tea Partiers” for being angry that the GOPe didn’t enact a conservative agenda since taking over the Senate. Newsflash: We are not stupid. We understand what a presidential veto is. But — as illustrated in this post — we were told that bill after bill would land on the President’s desk, even if he vetoed every one. We had a chance to illustrate the differences between the parties’ agendas and philosophies ahead of the 2016 election. And the GOPe affirmatively chose not to do it. THAT is why we are angry.

    So you understand the presidential veto but not the Senate filibuster?

    • #9
  10. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @TeresaMendoza

    Klaatu:

    I am so sick and tired of pundits criticizing the “grassroots” or “base” or “Tea Partiers” for being angry that the GOPe didn’t enact a conservative agenda since taking over the Senate.Newsflash: We are not stupid. We understand what a presidential veto is. But — as illustrated in this post — we were told that bill after bill would land on the President’s desk, even if he vetoed every one. We had a chance to illustrate the differences between the parties’ agendas and philosophies ahead of the 2016 election.And the GOPe affirmatively chose not to do it.THAT is why we are angry.

    So you understand the presidential veto but not the Senate filibuster?

    And what was filibustered?

    • #10
  11. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Absolutely fascinating, Larry–superb reporting and analysis. (A man could almost get the idea you’d had some experience in the media.)

    One thought: When Rob Long and I spoke to him about ten days ago, Sen. Rob Portman was extremely eager for progress on corporate tax reform in the Senate–and told us he was working on a piece of legislation he thought stood a good chance of passage.

    Now, speaking of the Senate, how’s that race in Connecticut shaping up?

    • #11
  12. ConservativeFred Member
    ConservativeFred
    @

    I have three (3) comments for the tone deaf GOPe:

    (1)  If Congress actually gets around to passing legislation, which will be vetoed, and that one, single piece of legislation is corporate tax reform . . .  Republicans are screwed.  Both the base and country as a whole will have the sense that only time the Republican Congress does anything meaningful it is for the benefit of corporations.

    I support corporate tax reform (it is necessary), but could the Republicans actually pass something (which will be vetoed) that directly touches the average American’s daily life?  How about the Obamacare changes Larry references, tax relief for the middle income, or remove the carried interest deduction for hedge funds?  Pass some legislation that actually resonates with people.  It is not that difficult.

    (2) I think Paul Ryan is great, but Larry’s summation of the discussion indicates Paul Ryan is pre-surrendering on any fight.  Effectively, Paul Ryan is stating that there is no point to passing legislation in the House because the Senate will do nothing with it.

    This pre-surrender attitude has to end.  At this moment, I am as effective as Paul Ryan in passing legislation.  Why do I need him in Washington to do nothing?

    (3)  Finally, quit confusing legislative success with winning.  We get it, almost all legislation will be vetoed, there will no successful legislation signed into law.  But that does not mean the GOP will lose.  In this environment, fighting and losing is “winning.”

    • #12
  13. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    ConservativeFred: (2) I think Paul Ryan is great, but Larry’s summation of the discussion indicates Paul Ryan is pre-surrendering on any fight.  Effectively, Paul Ryan is stating that there is no point to passing legislation in the House because the Senate will do nothing with it.

    No, he’s not pushing tax reform through right now. He is putting Obamacare repeal on the President’s desk. That’s not pre-surrender.

    For one thing, Ryan’s talking here as Chairman, not Speaker. Maybe as Speaker he would have more influence to get the Senate leadership to play ball. Maybe not.

    But he’d have to decide — is it worth an ugly fight and potential loss to get complicated tax reform in that bill so the president can veto it? Or would that distract from what he can get through, which is an Obamacare repeal/replacement?

    Larry makes some good arguments that it’s worth it, but presumably Ryan sees arguments the other way and we’re not hearing those. They only get to do reconciliation once a year, and maybe it’s best to keep the focus this time on Obamacare.

    If the House elects Speaker Ryan — and Congress puts his repeal/replace plan on Obama’s desk — suddenly Obamacare repeal if we get a new president seems much more realistic. It should add urgency to the presidential race.

    • #13
  14. ConservativeFred Member
    ConservativeFred
    @

    Leigh,

    Thans for the clarification.

    Leigh: But he’d have to decide — is it worth an ugly fight and potential loss to get complicated tax reform in that bill so the president can veto it? Or would that distract from what he can get through, which is an Obamacare repeal/replace.

    I appreciate Larry’s position, but a fight for corporate tax reform, which will be vetoed, is silly in this environment.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I’m not convinced Ryan is the right guy.  He didn’t rise to where he is by being an outsider, and we need someone who’ll shake things up, not maintain the status quo.

    Furthermore, this idea that the Republican party is in “chaos” is a crock.  Finding the right speaker will take time, given the leadership void we’ve had in the House since the 2010 elections . . .

    • #15
  16. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    ConservativeFred
    This pre-surrender attitude has to end. At this moment, I am as effective as Paul Ryan in passing legislation. Why do I need him in Washington to do nothing?

    Perfect, absolutely nub-of-the-argument perfect.

    And it’s true for McConnell, Boehner, McCarthy – all of the Chablis-sipping surrender monkeys.

    • #16
  17. Pelayo Inactive
    Pelayo
    @Pelayo

    I am in complete agreement with everyone who believes that forcing Obama to veto some key legislation has value.  Mitch McConnell is a deep disappointment to me.  He cries about not having 60 votes and filibusters.  Why is it that Harry Reid managed to do what he wanted in spite of those obstacles?  McConnell and other Republicans crying “we can’t win” are a disgrace to real “Leaders”.

    I  am a big sports fan and I like to use metaphors involving sports.  Here comes the sports metaphor:  Can anyone imagine Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer refusing to play against Alabama last year because he thought Alabama was unbeatable?  How about the NY Giants when they won a Super Bowl against an unbeaten Patriots team a few years ago?  The point is obvious. Real “Leaders” know that you cannot win if you don’t play and win or lose there is honor in daring to be great.

    • #17
  18. Ward Robles Inactive
    Ward Robles
    @WardRobles

    Larry, as I sit here this Sunday morning drinking from my Paul Ryan “Math” 2012 campaign mug of sadness, I am wondering why pass complicated half-measures that have no hope of becoming law, anyway? Let’s get the House to pass income tax reform that throws out the entire monstrosity of a tax code. Let them pass a replacement law that taxes all forms of realized income, once, at the same rate, regardless of the source or form of ownership. Let’s explain to the public all over again why central planning doesn’t work and good old free enterprise does.

    • #18
  19. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    And what was filibustered?

    Every appropriations bill.

    • #19
  20. JM Hanes Inactive
    JM Hanes
    @JMHanes

    Take the one guy who knows government finances inside and out and make him spend virtually all his time managing the House?

    There’s nothing wonky about being Speaker; it’s all carrot & stick wielding, brutally factional politics, all the time, and I can’t think of a more effective way to waste Paul Ryan’s real talents.  Is there any reason to think he would even be particular good at the job?  After what’s likely to be a very short honeymoon, we’ll have gained a Speaker who hates the job, and lost strategic expertise on Ways & Means when we need it most.

    • #20
  21. captainpower Member
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    JM Hanes: There’s nothing wonky about being Speaker; it’s all carrot & stick wielding, brutally factional politics, all the time, and I can’t think of a more effective way to waste Paul Ryan’s real talents.  Is there any reason to think he would even be particular good at the job?  After what’s likely to be a very short honeymoon, we’ll have gained a Speaker who hates the job, and lost strategic expertise on Ways & Means when we need it most.

    This is my worry.

    Presumably he is working hard doing his thing where he is at. We want to stop him from doing that?

    • #21
  22. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    ConservativeFred:(3) Finally, quit confusing legislative success with winning. We get it, almost all legislation will be vetoed, there will no successful legislation signed into law. But that does not mean the GOP will lose. In this environment, fighting and losing is “winning.”

    That’s odd, because to a lot of us fighting and losing is “losing.”  (You could look it up, as they say.)  I’d rather find something where we can fight and win, even if it is small.

    For those who are screaming for us to fight and lose, haven’t you noticed that this is exactly what Boehner has been doing for the last four years?  Do you have any idea how many hundreds of bills the House has passed, knowing that those bills would be dead on arrival in the Senate?  You have been getting exactly what you say you want, and you’re not even paying enough attention to notice.

    • #22
  23. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Larry3435:  …You have been getting exactly what you say you want, and you’re not even paying enough attention to notice.

    I’ll put some of this on leadership: we don’t know because they’re not really telling us. They could do much, much better at communication.

    JM Hanes: Is there any reason to think he would even be particular good at the job?  After what’s likely to be a very short honeymoon, we’ll have gained a Speaker who hates the job, and lost strategic expertise on Ways & Means when we need it most.

    I agree. But… here’s the one reason to think he may have what it takes: everyone who knows most about the job think’s he’s the one guy who can do it.

    If he’s trapped in the same poisonous tactical cycle as Boehner, there’s no point to it. Let Boehner drag it out. But if he can break that cycle and get the caucus to unite around a strategy — to present a united front once they’ve battled an issue out among themselves — it may be worth it.

    If Ryan’s smart — and he is — that’s weighing into his calculation right now. If it’s inevitable failure he won’t do it. But after all, his whole policy agenda depends on Republicans being a functional party. If he is the one — maybe the only one — who can make that happen, maybe duty calls.

    • #23
  24. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    JM Hanes:Take the one guy who knows government finances inside and out and make him spend virtually all his time managing the House?

    There’s nothing wonky about being Speaker; it’s all carrot & stick wielding, brutally factional politics, all the time, and I can’t think of a more effective way to waste Paul Ryan’s real talents. Is there any reason to think he would even be particular good at the job? After what’s likely to be a very short honeymoon, we’ll have gained a Speaker who hates the job, and lost strategic expertise on Ways & Means when we need it most.

    JM,

    100% in agreement. Ryan doesn’t have what it takes. He doesn’t have the killer political ability. He couldn’t put Joe Biden away in a debate. He is far too into the details and gets trapped in compromise. He is a great “idea” of a leader but in reality he doesn’t make it.

    I like him very much but that doesn’t mean I want him as speaker.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #24
  25. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Chris Wallace had a member from the Freedom Caucus on today (I don’t remember his name and care too little to look it up) and the funny thing is, nothing he said the members of that caucus demand has to do with fighting or better articulating conservatism.

    It was all procedural changes to how the House operates and the level of control the Speaker has to get business done in the House.  He basically said they would support Ryan as Speaker as long as he agreed to give up the power of being Speaker.

    • #25
  26. ConservativeFred Member
    ConservativeFred
    @

    Larry3435: For those who are screaming for us to fight and lose, haven’t you noticed that this is exactly what Boehner has been doing for the last four years?  Do you have any idea how many hundreds of bills the House has passed, knowing that those bills would be dead on arrival in the Senate?  You have been getting exactly what you say you want, and you’re not even paying enough attention to notice.

    When did Obama veto tax reform, the repeal of Obamacare, anything meaningful (don’t get me started on the failure theater of the Iran deal)?  Boehner fought against the sequester, that was special.  Oh wait, that was fighting against conservatives.

    Yes, yes, we can blame the Senate (and then make excuses that we don’t have a filibuster proof 60 Senators).

    After the 2014 election, I expected Boehner and McConnel to work together and actually show some fight.

    Trump’s primary attraction is that he “fights,” which is enough for an increasing number of conservatives.  Fighting and losing wins.  Pre-surrender (doing nothing because there are not 60 Republican Senators) loses.

    • #26
  27. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Klaatu:Chris Wallace had a member from the Freedom Caucus on today (I don’t remember his name and care too little to look it up) and the funny thing is, nothing he said the members of that caucus demand has to do with fighting or better articulating conservatism.

    It was all procedural changes to how the House operates and the level of control the Speaker has to get business done in the House. He basically said they would support Ryan as Speaker as long as he agreed to give up the power of being Speaker.

    I haven’t followed all the inside details of those procedural changes, but the little I’ve seen has me left wondering — don’t they realize this will empower the moderates as much as it will them and potentially more?

    I will say that the initial demands are an initial bargaining position and they pretty clearly admit that — Jordan said today they were ready to compromise, whatever that means.

    Webster is a cover, not a real alternative, and they know it — he can’t win the rest of the caucus, and he’s about to be redistricted out of office anyway. If the issue is at all about actual conservatism than among available options they want Ryan.

    But they won’t admit it, because they don’t want to give up their bargaining leverage. They want Ryan to make a deal with them.

    • #27
  28. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    ConservativeFred:

    Larry3435: For those who are screaming for us to fight and lose, haven’t you noticed that this is exactly what Boehner has been doing for the last four years? Do you have any idea how many hundreds of bills the House has passed, knowing that those bills would be dead on arrival in the Senate? You have been getting exactly what you say you want, and you’re not even paying enough attention to notice.

    When did Obama veto tax reform, the repeal of Obamacare, anything meaningful (don’t get me started on the failure theater of the Iran deal)? Boehner fought against the sequester, that was special. Oh wait, that was fighting against conservatives.

    Yes, yes, we can blame the Senate (and then make excuses that we don’t have a filibuster proof 60 Senators).

    After the 2014 election, I expected Boehner and McConnel to work together and actually show some fight.

    Trump’s primary attraction is that he “fights,” which is enough for an increasing number of conservatives. Fighting and losing wins. Pre-surrender (doing nothing because there are not 60 Republican Senators) loses.

    Boehner cannot control what goes on in the Senate.  The Senate has its own rules and those rules allow 40 senators to block legislation.  Remembering it was this rule that prevented a lot of what Obama wanted to accomplish from getting done while Republicans were a minority in the Senate, how does one fight when the opposition is committed to shutting everything down?

    Other than calling other people names, what has Trump done to demonstrate he fights?

    • #28
  29. JM Hanes Inactive
    JM Hanes
    @JMHanes

    If Ryan’s smart — and he is — that’s weighing into his calculation right now. If it’s inevitable failure he won’t do it. But after all, his whole policy agenda depends on Republicans being a functional party. If he is the one — maybe the only one — who can make that happen, maybe duty calls.

    If he’s the only candidate whom enough Republicans can rally around to elect, then I’m afraid we’re in much deeper trouble than pretty much any one person can fix.  It seems to me that Ryan already made the key calculation before announcing he was not in the running; now, it’s just a question of whether or not he’ll cave into pressure from panic-stricken peers.

    • #29
  30. JM Hanes Inactive
    JM Hanes
    @JMHanes

    Sorry – my last was addressed to Leigh @10:18 AM.  Accidentally erased too much of the block quote.

    • #30

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