Poor Paul Ryan. All he wanted to do was ride off into the sunset next January after achieving his boyhood dream of gutting the social safety net. But multiple reports this weekend suggest that everyone in the Republican caucus, from his enemies to his top lieutenant, wants him to just fuck off as soon as possible.
Ryan has been catching grief from all sides in recent weeks. Last week, the House Freedom Caucus voted with Democrats to sink the GOP’s farm bill after the far right group demanded a vote on a nativist immigration bill authored by Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. Prior to that happening, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—Ryan’s preferred successor to lead the Republican caucus—told reporters that there would be a vote on the bill in June.
“This is the problem when you have a lame duck speaker who announces he’s leaving eight months in advance,” a “senior Republican source” told Politico last week. “He can make calls to members to urge them to vote for something, but who will care?”
While the Freedom Caucus does its normal thing of nuking the Republican leadership’s plans, even so-called “moderates” in the GOP are defying Ryan. Last week, Republicans John Katko of New York and Dave Trott of Michigan—both of whom represent swing districts, although Trott is retiring—became the 19th and 20th House Republicans to sign a “discharge petition” which, if supported by Democrats, could force the House to vote on moderate immigration proposals.
The petition needs 25 Republican signatories and the support of all of the Democrats. If it happens, the Washington Post reported last week, the House would bypass committee and vote on four separate immigration bills, including one which would codify DACA into law, and pass the one which receives the most votes. (If history is any indication, that bill would then most likely die in the Senate.)
“Moderates are showing a new willingness to defy leadership, so we are tiptoeing into uncharted waters,” a GOP aide told Axios. “Don’t think this episode is fatal [for Ryan] by any means, but it could be the kindling to start a bigger fire.”
Even Ryan’s friends reportedly smell blood in the water. The Weekly Standard reports that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—who could have already had this job, but abruptly dropped out of the race to succeed John Boehner in 2015—is hatching a plan to try to oust Ryan prior to his retirement, and is “weighing the effort alongside a small group of trusted advisers, considering the pros and cons of forcing Ryan’s hand, and debating the best time to launch the effort.”
For McCarthy, the benefit is obvious, as he’d gain significantly more clout prior to a leadership race to replace Ryan which could include Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan of Ohio and possibly even House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. (Scalise endorsed McCarthy as Ryan’s replacement in April but the Weekly Standard says he could still run if McCarthy doesn’t shore up enough support.)
President Trump reportedly knows about McCarthy’s alleged scheme and “believes there is merit to the plan, but has not formed a final position,” according to the Weekly Standard. (Trump likes McCarthy because he gives him candy.) One person who reportedly doesn’t know about the plan yet, however? Paul Ryan, whom McCarthy reportedly has not spoken with.
Ryan’s spokesperson declined comment to the Weekly Standard, while McCarthy denied that he’s trying to force Ryan out. “Completely untrue,” McCarthy told the magazine. “Paul has my total support. Together we are completely focused on our agenda and traveling the country to take our unified message and action to the voters in November.”
Either way, it looks like Paul Ryan is going to absolutely hate coming to work for the next six months. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!