The news site Politico reported Thursday that Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) plans to retire from Congress at the end of this term.
He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority—all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season. Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over “micro-tactics,” and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center. On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would allow Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest. The best part of this scenario, people close to the speaker emphasize: He wouldn’t have to share the ballot with Trump again in 2020.
Ryan was an improbable choice for speaker, when he stepped up in October 2015 as the establishment’s last-ditch effort to block House conservatives from electing one of their own. At the time, the Wisconsin congressman had just taken over the Ways and Means Committee and was gearing up to overhaul the federal tax code for the first time since 1986.
In his two years, the speaker’s tenure has been marked by infighting and frustration, despite enjoying the largest Republican House majority in more than 80 years. Barring any unexpected victories, Ryan’s great achievements will have been bringing back the Export-Import Bank, a $350 highway pork bill and engineering a soft landing for the class of Puerto Rican bondholders represented by New York City billionaire Paul Singer, a major contributor to PAC’s associated with the speaker.
Given the unhappy state of the GOP House Conference, Ryan’s decision could not be described as a surprise. As the above excerpt plainly shows, the speaker and his circle have contempt for the conservatives, who make up the majority of the conference and President Donald J. Trump. Ryan’s wife, Janna, the one who grounds him, is a one-time lobbyist and the scioness of Oklahoma’s liberal Democratic Boren family.
Even in the summer, as Ryan struggled to hold together his 200-day legislative program that was supposed to have seen Obamacare repealed and replaced and tax reform complete by Labor Day, there was talk of Ryan moving on–talk that was disrupted by the June 14 shooting of Minority Whip Stephen J. Scalise (R.-La.).
Uncertainty surrounding Scalise’s recovery froze efforts to force Ryan out, because there was no way to negotiate with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.) or to bring in House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark R. Meadows (R.-N.C.) or his predecessor Rep. James D. Jordan (R.-Ohio) or anyone else–when nobody was sure if there would be one opening in the top three or two–and it was beyond rude to bring up the subject as the Louisiana congressman fought for his life.
Among House conservatives, Jordan and Meadows are very popular, but the feeling is that Meadows is a better leader, while Jordan is more ideologically committed.
Ryan’s early announcement gives his moderate allies time to maneuver, but given Scalise’s rising political profile and his success passing the national concealed carry reciprocity bill, it is hard to deny Scalise the promotion to majority leader or even speaker, depending on the ambitions of McCarthy.
McCarthy is widely popular in the conference and he has put behind him the gossip that torpedoed his coronation as speaker in the fall of 2015 and forced Ryan to leave the committee chairmanship he had craved since his days as a young aide to Jack F. Kemp.
Congress Uses Fake Russia-Taliban Report as Excuse to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
Another victory for the war party.
Democrats are seizing upon a fake news report alleging that Russia has funded Taliban mercenaries to kill U.S. soldiers in order to make it more difficult for troops to be pulled from Afghanistan, thus undermining President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.
The House Armed Services Committee voted on Wednesday to make it more difficult for Trump to pull troops out of Afghanistan. It would force several certifications to be met before Trump could bring troops home. Republicans in the committee joined the Democrats to undermine Trump with the approval of this National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the neoconservative who supports Bush-era globalism, said the measure “lays out, in a very responsible level of specificity, what is going to be required if we are going to in fact make decisions about troop levels based on conditions on the ground and based on what’s required for our own security, not based on political timelines.” It was approved by a 45-11 vote.
The amendment requires an assessment to determine whether or not “state actors have provided any incentives to the Taliban, their affiliates, or other foreign terrorist organizations for attacks against United States, coalition, or Afghan security forces or civilians in Afghanistan in the last two years, including the details of any attacks believed to have been connected with such incentives” before troops can be removed from the country.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) bragged about how the measure will make sure the U.S. does not leave the region and more American lives are put in jeopardy for a war effort that is largely recognized to be a lost cause.
“There’s been bipartisan criticism of what a weak deal [Trump] got with the Taliban, a deal that is already falling apart,” Moulton said. “Now we learned that he was making this deal at the same time as there were bounties on the heads of American troops, American sons and daughters. We clearly need more oversight over what the president is doing in Afghanistan.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is the most eloquent voice for an “America First” foreign policy in the House, opposed the measure because of its obvious implications against peace.
“A great nation does not force the next generation to fight their wars, and that’s what we’ve done in Afghanistan,” Gaetz said. “I think the best day to have not had the war in Afghanistan was when we started it, and the next best day is tomorrow.
“I don’t think there’s ever a bad day to end the war in Afghanistan,” he added. “Our generation is weary of this and tired of this.”
The defense industry is pushing the Russia bogeyman yet again, in order to create xenophobic outrage and a pretense to keep troops occupying in the region. The Pentagon has reported that Russia is trying to expedite the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but they are painting this news as if it is a bad thing.
“As of February, the Russian government was working with the central government, regional countries, and the Taliban to gain increased influence in Afghanistan, expedite a U.S. military withdrawal, and address security challenges that might arise from a withdrawal,” a report from the Pentagon said.
“Russia has politically supported the Taliban to cultivate influence with the group, limit the Western military presence, and encourage counter ISIS operations, although Russia publicly denies their involvement,” they added.
The political establishment, including the military-industrial complex, is pulling out all the stops to sabotage President Trump and deprive him of achieving his goals before November’s election.
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