The Two Paul Ryans

It’s difficult to tell if the Speaker of the House is lying to his constituents or himself
President Donald Trump shakes hands with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, for his address to a joint session of Congress. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, for his address to a joint session of Congress. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP)

By Remy Anne

When Donald Trump gave his first address to a Joint Session of Congress on February 28, 2017, the Speaker of the House sat behind him, as tradition dictates. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the current speaker, stood and applauded at the appropriate times to showcase his support for the President —a symbolic gesture of how Ryan has pivoted towards Trump’s agenda since the election, even when it has meant backtracking on his own promises.

If Ryan’s support for the President seems somewhat hypocritical, it’s because it is. Ryan refused to endorse Trump until early June of 2016, and even then went so far as to avoid the word “endorsement.”

“I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed in The Janesville Gazette (Wisconsin).

However, after November 9th, when Donald Trump was declared the then President-elect of the United States, Ryan jumped aboard the #MAGA train. In the days since, Ryan has heavily praised the actions taken by Trump, from his multiple executive orders to his anti-Obamacare rhetoric. Ryan released the following statement of support after the President’s recent address:

Speaker Ryan Press Office — Feb. 28, 2017

Speaker Ryan Press Office — Feb. 28, 2017

While the majority of this statement reads like traditional political pandering, Ryan’s support of the de facto leader of his party brings with it a heavy burden. When Ryan invited the President to address the joint session of Congress he stated, “With this new unified Republican government, we have a unique opportunity to deliver results for the country.” By aligning himself so heavily with the Trump administration, Ryan has achieved such a unification of the Republican Party — for better or for worse.

As any public relations student will tell you, associating one’s self with a controversial figurehead is a risk at best; outright unintelligent at worst. And Donald Trump’s few weeks in office have been nothing short of controversial, with enough scandals to fill a few screenplays. Ryan has chosen to walk a very high tight rope with his newfound support of the President — especially given how this conflicts with his own impassioned statements on what exactly is needed to make America great again.

On June 16, 2016 Paul Ryan released “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America.” This was intended to be a constitution of sorts for a GOP controlled government, outlining the four ways to “return power to the people’s elected representatives,” and right the perceived imbalance of executive and judicial powers.

The reduction of executive powers has been one of Paul Ryan’s calling cards throughout his tenure as Speaker. He often rallied against Obama’s executive orders, going so far as to take to the floor of the House to proclaim:

“It is about the integrity of our Constitution. Article I. Article I states that ‘all legislative powers’ are vested in Congress. Article II. Article II states that the president shall ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’

Those lines — that separation of powers — could not be clearer. Article I: Congress writes laws. Article II: presidents faithfully execute those laws.

In recent years, the executive branch has been blurring these boundaries, to the point of absolutely overstepping them altogether. As a result, bureaucrats responsible for executing the laws as written are now writing the laws at their whim.”

As of February 28th, 2017 Donald Trump has signed 15 executive orders and 12 presidential memoranda. Rather than rallying against this “at whim” bureaucratic law writing, Ryan has praised the majority of the President’s executive actions, stating that Trump was “wasting no time acting on his promises…and by instituting a hiring freeze, he has taken a critical first step toward reining in Washington bureaucracy.

Ryan failed to explain exactly how the issuing of an executive order would in fact stop the Washington bureaucracy from abusing its executive power.

A further section of Ryan’s “Better Way” plan reinforces the importance of both the Federal Records Act (FRA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to keep agencies in check. However, rather than increasing the availability of these resources, in the last month the FBI has actually tightened the restriction on how requests can be received. Emails are no longer accepted, and online requests have become more intensely regulated.

Ryan has said nothing on the matter.

When it comes to healthcare, the President and Ryan continue to clash. Ryan has continuously proposed budget plans that would cut funding to entitlement programs. While campaigning Trump promised the exact opposite, promising to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts.”

This seems to go against Ryan’s “A Better Way to Fix Healthcare” plan, which promised Medicaid reform “by capping federal funding and turning control of the program over to states.” The privatization of other entitlement programs would undoubtably incur funding cuts as well, creating clear idealogical differences between the proposals of both Trump and Ryan.

Policy flip flopping and political maneuvering are rarely newsworthy, given the complex nature of our federal government. However, Paul Ryan has placed himself in quite a predicament by aligning himself so strongly with Donald Trump’s rhetoric. Firstly, he has backtracked on many of his own promises, forcing his constituents to wonder exactly where he stands on matters of national importance. If Ryan is not planning to uphold his “Better Way” proposals, exactly what is his plan for the future of this country?

Secondly, he has placed the future of his political career — and to some extent the future of the GOP — in the hands of a man who has been known to tweet-bash SNL at three in the morning. To align a party with such an unknown quantity seems dangerous even in the most stable of times.

Ryan is correct in his statement that the Republican party is now a unified front in the federal government. Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen.

News // Congress / Donald Trump / Government / Politics