Ryan departs at a difficult time for GOP, leaving a remarkable record

Ryan departs at a difficult time for GOP, leaving a remarkable record
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It was a job he never really wanted. In fact, by acceding to the wishes of his colleagues and heeding their call to become speaker of the U.S. House, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Stefanik: GOP leaders need to step up their female recruitment efforts McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE most likely gave up any dream of someday residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Yet Ryan stood in the breach, fulfilling what he believed was his duty to his country, his party and the Congress.

This week Paul Ryan called it quits, at least for now. He’s giving up his seat in Congress and with it the speakership, the job he never chased.

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There’s one job in town that’s unarguably the toughest. A close challenger is speaker of the House.

 

That’s especially true for a Republican speaker in the current Congress. With a numerical rather than governing majority, getting the “eagles to fly in formation” (to put it very charitably) was a daily challenge. Holding together factions as diverse as the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus required exception political skills.

Ryan came to the job when it was at its least appealing, in the wake of BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows looks to make his move Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus MORE-to-resign-from-congress.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows looks to make his move Fractious GOP vows to unify in House minority Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus MORE’s resignation while under fire from within his own party.

He led his party and Congress through turbulent times.

Ryan was a prolific fundraiser for the GOP, allowing them to run the campaigns necessary to hold the majority. He deftly held hands and enforced the discipline necessary to get an often-fractious caucus to remain generally united.

Ryan was not without his harsh critics. From the usual suspects in the media, to some of the more strident elements of his own party, Ryan took more than his share of incoming fire.

It’s strange that those in his party who have been so critical were the same ones that hailed the departure of his predecessor and welcomed the reluctant new speaker. It remains to be seen how they will deal with the new reality of not having Paul Ryan to kick around as the embodiment of “The Establishment.”

For all of that sniping, the record under Ryan is remarkably different, especially given the hand he was dealt. Ryan, it turns out, was the point man on many of the successes of the Trump administration. Ryan was the one who labored for years and finally succeeded in getting tax reform and tax cuts that will make America competitive again and stimulate economic growth, the two most important words in the domestic policy lexicon.

Ryan also got a huge increase in military spending. The folks who criticize Ryan and company point out that ObamaCare is still with us. But Ryan got legislation to repeal ObamaCare through the House. Ditto with Medicaid reform. It was the Senate that failed to carry those over the goal line.

Ryan may not have come to the speaker’s chair entirely on his own volition. He certainly is leaving that way. He’s the first speaker in more than three decades to leave on his own terms.

When Speaker Ryan announced his intentions to the members of his caucus, he was reportedly interrupted by several standing ovations.

His fellow Republicans recognized not only his leadership in getting tax cuts and a stronger military, but his ability to lead and unify, to be unapologetic in his beliefs, and to be the party’s always Happy Warrior.

They knew that the man they corralled into service as speaker had done yeoman work. He had forged a governing majority, provided an agenda and won important battles.

From his days as an aide to Jack Kemp, to being his party’s vice presidential nominee, to sitting second in line of succession to the presidency of the United States, policy and principle were always what defined him.

Ryan’s departure comes at a difficult time. It brings with it more soul searching for the GOP and some unanswered questions about the party’s future.

Who will champion the Reagan-Kemp-Ryan belief that deficits and national debt shortchange future generations, that free trade leads to greater prosperity, that welcomes immigrants and celebrates their stories, and views big government as more of a problem than a solution?

How effective can Ryan be as a “lame duck”? Will he remain the prolific fundraiser he has been? Will he be able to “go through the tape” as he intends, or will his colleagues see the prospect of a protracted battle to replace him as too daunting?

More to the point, who’s next? Will McCarthy, Scalise or some yet-to-be-announced candidate fare any better than did Ryan in coalescing a slim and diverse majority to effectively govern?

Will a “Blue Wave” wash away the majority, or at least pare it to an even thinner one?

While those questions are being answered, one thing remains certain. Being speaker of the House is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Paul Ryan did it well.

Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications and one of Pennsylvania’s most influential Republicans, is a nationally recognized leader in strategic communications and trusted advisor to leaders in government and business.