There’s plenty of room to criticize Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) over his politics, or his record as Speaker of the House, or the way the self-adulating and self-proclaimed torch bearer of modern conservatism has aided and abetted the decidedly unprincipled and unconservative presidency of Donald J. Trump.
But there’s little room to debate the man’s intellect. He’s a smart guy, someone who can both grasp complex government policies and legislative machinations and go some ways towards misrepresenting those intricacies to the average voter.
And so when Rep. Ryan announced in April that he would not seek reelection in 2018 – a nearly unprecedented move for a sitting Speaker of either party – you can bet there were some very good reasons that he thoroughly assessed and evaluated before he made that decision. On Wednesday, he inadvertently revealed what at least one of those true motivations was.
Speaking at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, CA, Rep. Ryan told the gathering of bankers and financiers about the oncoming ‘blue wave’ that could carry the Democrats into the majority in Congress this November.
Bloomberg described his speech this way:
House Speaker Paul Ryan warned that Democratic gains in November’s congressional elections could make it impossible to get anything accomplished and expose President Donald Trump’s administration to more aggressive oversight. Should Republicans lose control of either the House or Senate, “you’ll have gridlock, you’ll have subpoenas,” with the whole legislative system “shutting down…”
The warning about gridlock is nothing new. Whenever the majority party is on the verge of losing its control of the legislative agenda, they invoke the prospect of ‘gridlock’ to try to scare anyone on the fence and keep them from jumping ship. The signal about ‘subpoenas,’ however, is a tacit admission over how the GOP has abused its majority unethically, perhaps even illegally.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine characterized the the Ryan Congress as one that “has been run essentially as a subordinate arm of the Trump administration,” and that the GOP has “quashed votes to compel release of Donald Trump’s tax returns,” and “used their investigative power not to oversee the presidency but to harass and intimidate the Department of Justice into falling into line behind the president’s whims, to the point where the acting attorney general had to bluntly accuse House Republicans of trying to ‘extort’ him.”
More from the New Yorker:
Trump and his family have used their power to enrich themselves personally, with no hearings or oversight whatsoever from the House. His Cabinet members have likewise misspent funds and abused their authority without any accountability from the committees that are putatively tasked with the job.
When Paul Ryan speaks, we should really listen. His ‘warning’ about subpoenas should be heeded by Republicans, and it should motivate Democrats.