Yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan delivered a much-anticipated speech in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room on the state and tone of American politics. Anyone hoping that Speaker Ryan would use the forum to forcefully denounce Donald Trump and rule out the prospect of supporting his nomination were undoubtedly disappointed – but should not have been surprised, given the way Speaker Ryan followed in his predecessor’s footsteps and enabled the anti-immigrant wing of the GOP.
The reviews of Speaker Ryan’s speech have been rough. As the Washington Post political tipsheet “The Daily 202,” recapped of the Ryan remarks, “The big speech landed with a big thud. The clips are pretty brutal. And his remarks are being pretty widely portrayed as a self-serving cop-out.” Among the condemnations of Speaker Ryan’s speech include:
Dana Milbank column: “Paul Ryan’s Cowardly Neutrality On Trump”:
“[T]o preserve his neutrality, and his presidential prospects, Ryan is making a corrupt bargain. There is no neutrality between good and evil … Ryan, owning his establishment manacles, recalled that it was “a big deal” to be on Ways and Means. “We treated each other with respect. . . . We disagreed without being disagreeable,” he said, contrasting that with the toxic discourse undermining government. “We don’t have to accept it, and we cannot enable it,” Ryan said.
Yet Ryan IS enabling it. “What role do you think members of Congress have in bringing the nation together?” one of the interns asked. “It is not our job simply to say we are just as angry as the rest of everybody else, to put gas on the fire,” he said. At another point, he asserted: “I think how we conduct ourselves is very important, and we set an example and lead by example.”
Right. But leading by example means denouncing and disowning the demagogue in our midst. This is no time to play Switzerland.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board, “As the GOP Slides Toward Trump, Mr. Ryan Is A Not-So-Innocent Bystander”:
“Given the gaping divergence between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump on essential civic values, it is a wonder that these two men remain in the same party. It is more than a wonder — it is a shame — that Mr. Ryan has not repudiated Mr. Trump and promised to oppose him. Doing so would have made clear that Mr. Ryan puts the principles he advanced before partisan loyalty and political calculation, where they firmly belong. Instead, Mr. Ryan continues to be another not-so-innocent bystander as his party slides toward Trumpism.”
Yet Speaker Ryan’s refusal to stand up to Trump and Trumpism extends past yesterday’s ineffectual words and plans to support the eventual nominee. Beyond the inadequacy of Speaker Ryan’s rhetoric is his actual record in the House on immigration, where he has been kowtowing to the anti-immigrant wing of the Party just as he has been kowtowing to Trump. Last week, for example, Speaker Ryan presided over yet another anti-immigrant vote – the eighth anti-immigrant vote in this Congress alone.
On the three year anniversary of the infamous RNC autopsy report calling for the GOP to pass immigration reform, House Republicans instead voted for Speaker Paul Ryan to sign the entire U.S. House of Representatives onto an amicus brief in the highly-political U.S. v Texas immigration case to be heard next month by the U.S. Supreme Court. Rather than simply signing on the Republican conference, Ryan took this unusual step of scheduling a show-vote and trying to put the full force of the House as an institution behind his anti-immigrant agenda.
The case, brought by Republican Governors and Attorneys General of 26 states, has long been viewed as an epic political battle, as prominent immigration attorney David Leopold recently explained. As Ryan noted, the full House vote was a “very extraordinary step.” Indeed, Ryan could have filed an amicus brief on behalf of his GOP colleagues without holding a show-vote on the House floor – but that might not have sufficiently satisfied the anti-immigrant wing of the GOP, to whom Ryan has been bending over backwards to accommodate.
According Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “One reason the Republican Party is where it is today is the unwillingness to take on the bullies and bigots in their midst. No issue better embodies Republican leaders’ cowardice than immigration. Supposedly, both past Speaker of the House John Boehner and now Speaker Ryan are supporters of immigration reform, recognizing it as good for the county and good for the Party. Yet last Congress, instead of holding a House vote that likely would have passed immigration reform with a contingent of Republicans joining the vast majority of Democrats, the GOP leadership bowed to the anti-immigrant wing of the party and refused to bring the bill up for a vote. Making matters worse, they accommodated the anti-immigrant wing with vote after vote from the anti-immigrant wish list – a pattern that has continued in this Congress. By failing to stand up to bullies, they’ve only enabled them to thrive and flourish—and 2016 looks no different.”