The honeymoon is over. House Speaker Paul Ryan was given the benefit of the doubt when he took the position from his predecessor, John Boehner, but conservatives in the House of Representatives are warning him: The pressure to stand up to the Obama administration isn’t going away. On Wednesday, in a speech to the Heritage summit, Ryan said his goal was to bring Republicans together.
“To quote William Wallace in Braveheart,” Ryan said, “we have to unite the clans.”
Those clans include the Freedom Caucus – a group of conservative representatives who have proven to be a mighty thorn in the side of the party establishment. According to the Huffington Post, Ryan met with several of the Freedom Caucus’s top members prior to the Heritage summit, and the meeting “did not go well.” Conservatives in the House are wary of Ryan’s willingness to go along with a budget agreement Boehner struck with Obama before leaving office.
“Paul Ryan has two choices,” Representative Mo Brooks told HuffPo. “He can either support a financially responsible path that rises to the challenges that America faces, or not.”
In his speech Wednesday, Ryan told the hardline members of Congress to avoid fueling division. “Don’t fight over tactics,” he said. “And don’t impugn people’s motives. It’s fine if you disagree. And there’s a lot that’s rotten in Washington. There’s no doubt about that. But we can’t let how you vote on an amendment to an appropriations bill define what it means to be a conservative. Because, it’s setting our sights too low. Frankly, that’s letting the president define us. That’s what he wants us to do. That’s defining ourselves as an opposition party, instead of a proposition party.”
What Ryan doesn’t understand is that conservatives inside the House and across the country are sick and tired of watching the Republican Party act as a rubber stamp for the Obama agenda. Defined as they may be as the Party of No, they have failed again and again to actually block the worst expenditures of this administration. In that way, they have become the least-effective opposition party in history.
Furthermore, it should be incumbent upon party leaders like Ryan to realize that we can no longer let Democrats and the mainstream media define what it means to govern. Of course the media is going to accuse Republicans of standing in the way. They want to see Democrats get everything they want. It has escaped notice, apparently, that it takes two parties to create gridlock. So why is it that it’s always the Republicans who get the blame? The problem here isn’t so much how things are being done in Congress – the problem is that Republicans have no idea how to spin it to the press.
For far too long, this party has established a game plan that involves being more like Democrats. If that’s what it means to be bipartisan in 2016, count us out.