- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2017

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is taking most of the heat for the failure of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill last week, with several conservative voices calling for him to resign for the good of President Trump’s agenda.

And, in a bizarre twist, Mr. Trump himself may have inadvertently fanned the anti-Ryan voices when he urged viewers to tune in to Fox News’ “Justice With Judge Jeanine” program Saturday. Jeanine Pirro then kicked off her program with a fierce monologue demanding that Mr. Ryan quit.

Ms. Pirro insisted Mr. Trump didn’t know she was going to do that, but White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that Mr. Trump wasn’t sending any signals and retains full confidence in Mr. Ryan.

“He doesn’t blame Paul Ryan. In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard. He enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great speaker of the House,” Mr. Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Vice President Mike Pence also took pains to praise Mr. Ryan over the weekend in a speech in West Virginia as the White House circled the wagons.



As speculation about Mr. Ryan grew, a number of GOP lawmakers quickly issued statements of support, trying to put to rest stories of discontent.

“Speaker Ryan found himself in a tough position today, but I still believe there isn’t anyone else out there who could do a better job messaging our conference’s diverse views,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Oklahoma Republican.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who has weighed a speaker’s run in the past, also signaled he’s still behind Mr. Ryan.

“Our conference is blessed to be led by a great conservative like Paul Ryan,” Mr. Hensarling said. “He’s a man of impeccable integrity who has an unyielding passion for the cause of freedom. He showed phenomenal leadership and negotiated in good faith throughout this process.”

Conservative activists were far less forgiving, ascribing blame for what they’ve derisively labeled “Ryancare” to the Wisconsin Republican.

David Bozell, president of ForAmerica, said Republicans had eight years to fashion a repeal bill and a GOP replacement, and the first time they were in a position to hold a nonsymbolic vote on a plan that could be enacted, they failed.

“Not only does the leadership lack the political will, it demonstrates a consistent inability to market conservative principles and policy,” Mr. Bozell said, calling for the entire leadership cadre — including Mr. Ryan — to step down.

A number of lawmakers called it a learning experience for Mr. Ryan, who is only about 18 months into the job of speaker.

His previous roles were as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he helped orchestrate passage of fast-track trade authority, though he wasn’t able to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership through, and as chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he wrote blueprints that called for trimming spending.

None of those budgets ever succeeded in becoming law.

Mr. Ryan easily won re-election to the speakership in January, with only a single Republican voting for someone else.

He had an antagonistic relationship with Mr. Trump during the campaign, but immediately after the election, Mr. Ryan did an about-face, saying Republicans owed much of their congressional majorities to Mr. Trump, who had shown the GOP how to win elections in an unsettled political time.

The two men speak almost every day and share the outlines of an agenda — though on health care, it was congressional Republicans under Mr. Ryan who wrote the bill, then enlisted Mr. Trump’s negotiating and salesmanship powers to try to rally support.

They fell 10 to 15 votes shy of a majority, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Ryan brushed aside talk of tactics and specifics of the legislation, blaming the collapse on a party still struggling with the basics of governing.

“We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do. You just had to be against it,” he said. “Now in three months’ time, we tried to go to a governing party where we actually had to get 216 people to agree with each other on how we do things, and we weren’t just quite there today. We will get there, but we weren’t there today.”

Conservatives and moderates alike were skeptical of the legislation, which, according to one poll, had the support of less than one in five voters.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said congressional leaders wrote their bill “in secret” and then tried to force it on lawmakers — a mistake he said has been repeated time and again.

“If I were the president, I wouldn’t deal with health care anymore, but as legislators, it is a problem, and we should pick it right back up, do it the right way, get everybody with a different interest in the room together,” Mr. Gohmert said.

It’s the same complaint that dogged former House Speaker John A. Boehner, who resigned in 2015 amid criticism from the same conservative Freedom Caucus that helped sink the health bill this month.

But lawmakers in the Freedom Caucus poured cold water on talk of rebellion now.

“I am still supportive of the speaker,” Rep. Lee M. Zeldin told “Face the Nation” on CBS, adding, “many members of the Freedom Caucus just voted for him a couple of months ago.”

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