Could the Republicans Finally Be Interested in Governing?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The apparent decision of the House Republicans to select Representative Paul Ryan to be the next House Speaker succeeding John Boehner is a momentous move for an extremely polarized House GOP. It is, however, their equally dramatic apparent willingness to move quickly as well to avoid a fight with the White House and a possible Government shut-down by passing an increase in the debt ceiling as well as agreeing in general terms on a budget reconciliation package. This reflects a sea-change in their legislative behavior after almost seven years of obstructionism.
Convincing Ryan to succeed Boehner after he had clearly balked at earlier suggestions indicates that he made his acceptance conditional on these moves—in addition to all the publically cited conditions—so that the House expeditiously complete all of Boehner’s languishing business before the new Speaker takes office. It also suggests that he did not extract any promises from the Freedom Caucus for their support for his leadership going forward; something already suggested by the announcement that Ryan was not a unanimous choice of the Republican Caucus. The remaining unknown for Ryan is how long a honeymoon he can truly expect from the House GOP before their internecine hostilities break out again.
Reflecting on the speed with which the caucus turned around on the debt ceiling and reconciliation suggests that Ryan and many of his colleagues have not forgotten how to govern; conflict resolution and compromise; they have just not wanted to do so. (Fight like crazy for what you believe, but win or lose you know you will need to compromise.) Since Obama entered the White House both parties have fought tooth and nail to score for their position, but compromising has been a true rarity. It remains to be seen whether Ryan will be able to change his party’s behavior when it returns in January for the final year of the Obama Presidency and during an election year to boot.
Watch for tonight’s TV ratings of the Republican Party’s presidential debate both in Kansas and New York. The debates will be up against the second game of Mets-Royals World Series contest. As the Republican Party does not draw well on the blue East Coast—except perhaps among some Yankee fans—their main loyalty test will come in the red Midwest where Kansas fans reportedly bleed for their Royals; maybe more than for the GOP.