House Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, is said to be mulling becoming a candidate for speaker of the house — despite his repeated assurances that he does not want the job. While some are calling him a “consensus choice” who could bring unity to a party in disarray, he is being met with little enthusiasm from a powerful force within the Republican Party: the same conservatives who torpedoed the candidacy of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 Republican members of Congress who want to hold government funding and debt repayment hostage to massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood, say they are sticking with Florida Republican Rep. Daniel Webster as their choice for speaker. And conservative pundits are making clear they do not want Ryan: This week RedState’s Erick Erickson warned he would be “a dangerous pick for conservatives,” Richard Viguerie’s Conservative HQ denounced him a “Boehner-Lite,” and Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz called him “the absolute worst choice for speaker.” A Breitbart story on Friday suggested that Ryan too might struggle to get the 218 votes to win and that the perception of a Ryan consensus was purely media driven.
The reason for this skepticism? While Ryan made his name proposing tough austerity budgets for the poor and middle class and tax cuts for the richest Americans, even his brand of Ayn Randian conservatism may not be pure enough for today’s GOP in three major ways:
Ryan has backed some form of comprehensive immigration reform.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, holds the prevailing view in his caucus on immigration: “steadfastly against illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants.” But Paul Ryan has backed comprehensive immigration reform, even with a path for “earned legalization” for undocumented immigrants. After the Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform in 2013, Ryan urged Speaker Boehner to bring similar legislation to the floor, suggesting possibly doing so even if it lacked majority support in the Republican caucus. Boehner did not do so. After immigration reform advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) praised Ryan on Friday, an official with the anti-immigrant NumbersUSA told Breitbart that a “vote for Paul Ryan is a vote for Gang of Eight style amnesty.”
Ryan supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
In 2008, Ryan strongly backed the Wall Street bailout — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — warning that “this Wall Street crisis is quickly becoming a Main Street crisis. While the U.S. Treasury has realized a $56.3 billion profit to date, the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis described Ryan’s support as “fiscal conservative apostasy.” And conservative Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) said Friday: “Back in 2008 there were a number of us that committed that we simply could not ever support a speaker who fought so hard to pass the Wall Street bailout.”
Ryan reached a budget deal with his Senate counterpart in 2013 that increased spending.
Two years ago, then-House Budget Chairman Ryan and then-Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) reached a bipartisan agreement to partially undo the automatic cuts mandated by sequestration and raise some additional revenue. While the bill became law, it did so with the opposition of conservative groups like FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation, and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. Among the most vocal critics: Freedom Caucus Chairman Jordan, who slammed it as “a marked departure from what we all agreed we’d set out to do and it is not going to put us on that path to balance that everyone — everyone — in the country knows we need to do if we’re ever going to solve this fiscal mess and get our economy growing again.”