Passage of the recent omnibus spending bill was a classic example of the horse trading that is U.S. politics. While the GOP managed to get most of what it wanted (rest assured, they’ll be back demanding more, come September), Republicans were forced to make a number of concessions to the opposition party. Those concessions included the extension of tax breaks for families and small businesses, continued funding for Planned Parenthood, and increased funding for the National Institutes of Health. Conservatives outside Washington D.C. think even those were too much, however – and they’re turning their frustration on House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Of course, every politician who has made it through his or her first year in office realizes that there is no pleasing some constituents, no matter what gains were made on their behalf. For example, Ryan has touted the lifting of the ban on U.S. petroleum exports as well as the renewal of popular tax cuts for business, as victories for the right. Unfortunately for Ryan, conservative media is not buying it. Rush Limbaugh, on one of his usual rants, is calling for the dissolution of the GOP because of the preservation of funding for Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act. “There is no Republican Party…[they’ve] sold America down the river,” he blathers.
Limbaugh is not alone. Right-wing commentator Laura Ingraham has denounced the Ryan budget as the “omni-bust” bill, calling the Speaker “a declared enemy of the [Republican] base.” Tea Party activists in Wisconsin are planning a primary challenge against Ryan. Expressing anger over a provision raising the number of “guest worker” visas for foreign residents, William Gheen, president of Americans For Legal Immigration, said, “These sellout Republicans have made a huge mistake voting for this on top of the huge surge in public anger at D.C. politicians that have betrayed their constituents.” Some of the online attacks against Ryan have been downright petty, accusing him of being a Muslim because of his recent beard.
In his own defense, Ryan points out that much of the budget bill was a “done deal” before he took over the Speaker’s chair from Boehner last fall. Even the Freedom Caucus, which voted against the budget deal, acknowledged that Ryan “could only do so much within the parameters that he had to work with,” but added that “so many grassroots supporters have been disappointed so many times that they can see no difference.” The Freedom Caucus member, who declined to be identified, warned that “Mr. Ryan will need to put real pressure on the Senate in the first quarter of 2016 or any goodwill he has will be gone.”
Ryan intends to do just that. He has promised to hold yet another (!) vote to repeal the popular Affordable Care Act after the holiday break, using the reconciliation process. That vote will include a provision to stop all federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Ryan has been warned by the Freedom Caucus that he had better make good: “He’s made promises that next year will be different…[but] if those things don’t materialize, then the honeymoon is completely over.”
That may be the case – but keep in mind that the current budget only keeps the government running until September 2016. It expires just in time for the traditional GOP “October Surprise,” and considering what is at stake in this election, that is likely to be a doozy.
Democrats are well advised to be on their guard and be ready for anything.