By Greta Hallberg, For The Miami Student
In late September, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced he’d be retiring from Congress. (Important to note, Miamians, as he represents Oxford. There’s going to be an election here soon.)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was set to take Boehner’s place as Speaker, but on Oct. 8, he dropped out of the race, shocking the Republican base. Some members literally cried.
Rep. Paul Ryan, a Miami alumnus (’92), has repeatedly said that he is not interested in running for the position, though he has been a party favorite to take over for Boehner.
On Tuesday, Ryan announced he would consider running for the position, but only if he had the full support of every major conservative caucus in the House of Representatives.
That, of course, includes the Freedom Caucus, a group of 36 of the most right-wing members of Congress, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. The members aim to push leadership in a more conservative direction and a direction that decentralizes power from the leadership in favor of the rank and file members.
The caucus audibly did not believe that Boehner followed House voting rules, effectively forcing him to resign from the position.
The Freedom Caucus has an impact on Congressional votes — especially the one for Speaker. If 80 percent of the 36 voters decide against the party on an issue, the majority party loses a bloc of 36 votes. That brings their 247 Republican members down to 211, which is less than a majority. The caucus is a powerful force among conservatives that is not to be reckoned with.
Enter Paul Ryan, begrudgingly forced into the Speaker’s race. He has repeatedly insisted he does not want the job, fearing the intense nature of it will take him away from his family. He also has reasonable qualms about the factions in the party, including the Freedom Caucus.
On Wednesday evening, the Freedom Caucus so much as endorsed Ryan for Speaker, saying they had the 80 percent of votes necessary in favor of the Representative from Wisconsin.
This is a good first step, but it is by no means a win for Ryan.
So why does it seem like nobody wants the job?
It’s because they don’t. The Speaker has one of the most high-pressure jobs in the United States, putting him two heart attacks away from the presidency. Besides that, he has to rally 247 strong-willed members of Congress to vote with him and the party on major issues.
The best type of legislation is bipartisan legislation. Near unanimous support probably means a bill is effective. As the Speaker, that means reaching across the aisle and generating support from the Democrats. This is good leadership, but is partially what got Boehner in trouble with the Freedom Caucus.
Members of the caucus, many of whom were part of the Tea Party movement, are willing to oppose anything that Democrats touch, even if Conservatives support it, too.
While Tea Partiers are extremist ideologues who cannot be reasoned with, they are good at uniting against a cause: namely, President Barack Obama. Sure, this prevents bipartisanship and effective legislating, but that is not to discount their claims entirely.
Obama promised to be the most transparent administration and has created the most barriers for the press and, therefore, the public. He often circumvents Congress by pushing his own agenda with executive orders. He is a polarizing president and quite frankly, the future Democrats on the slate do not seem to be any better.
Hillary Clinton leads in the polls, and while this is a favorable rating for her campaign, she has as many haters as she does motivators. There’s a committee in the House whose main purpose is basically to bring her down. (Ahem, Benghazi, anyone?) Democratic-Socialist Bernie Sanders won’t fare much better. His views are too leftist to unite the party and even if he did that, he would get even less done in Congress than our current executive.
A Republican president, granted a legitimate Republican like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, would probably make the Speaker’s job easier. GOP House members will hopefully rally around the Speaker and vote with the party. Maybe we’d actually get some laws passed instead of threatening to defund the government every few months.
Regardless, the job of Speaker is lonely and hard. Paul Ryan is going for it against his will, but uniting the factitious party is going to be hard. As of now, he seems to be the party’s last hope. He has the far right-wing support. Now he has to unite a broken party and bring some solidarity to Congress.
It’s no wonder Boehner retired.