- - Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Should House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell be repealed and replaced? The argument for their ouster, repeated ad nauseam, is that Republicans now control both houses of Congress, so how come the leaders won’t deliver for their Republican president? But are these attacks reasonable?

Why has Mr. Ryan, for instance, come in for such sustained assaults by many on the right when the chamber he controls has delivered on significant fronts for both President Trump and conservatives generally, including — but not limited to — defense, health care, financial regulation and immigration? Such news, of course, might have eluded those absorbing only the negative noise emanating from the president and many of the major stars on talk radio. But here’s Mr. Ryan’s record on just three significant issues.

The House voted to repeal and replace Obamacare on May 4, with The Wall Street Journal running a front-page picture of a beaming Donald Trump celebrating the victory with the House speaker. The lead Journal story reported that House Republicans “repealed most of President Obama’s signature health-insurance law Thursday in a tight vote [217 to 213], handing President Donald Trump his first legislative victory and vindicating GOP leaders who failed twice before to pass a bill.”

True, the bill failed in the Senate, but how does that “taint” the House leadership, as Fox News’ Sean Hannity has intimated? Or even Mr. McConnell, who, with a minuscule majority of Republican senators, managed to lose by just a single vote, even though the Republican senatorial ranks are filled with turncoats like John McCain, Susan Collins and Rand Paul?

Consider another of the president’s priorities: dismantling the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, which Mr. Trump bluntly labeled “a disaster” for business. With Ryan & Co. in charge, the House passed the Financial Choice Act on June 8 to emasculate Dodd-Frank by a 233 to 186 margin. “We see [this act] as the crown jewel of this effort,” Mr. Ryan boasted at a press conference.

Has Mr. Ryan been soft on the Trump wall, the president’s most memorable campaign pledge dealing with border security? Fake news. He’s certainly been more reliable on the issue than our chief executive, especially since that famous “Chuck and Nancy” get-together. The July 27 online Washington Times carried this headline: “House approves spending bill with $1.6 billion to start Trump’s border wall.” All the money that the president “requested to start building a wall on our southern border, he’s going to get,” stressed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Rep. Andrew Biggs, Arizona Republican, told this reporter that he favored the wall because the verdict of those he surveyed who patrol his state’s boundaries “was unanimous. They want a wall.” Still, the whip count showed the wall might lose in a straight up-and-down vote.

So the House speaker managed to deftly insert the wall’s funding in a broader $827 billion national security package without a direct vote on the wall itself. The bill passed 235 to 192, with Ryan & Co. losing just five of their Republican colleagues. Is this tepid or inept leadership?

But if Mr. Ryan’s record is better than publicly portrayed, Mr. McConnell, it is said, can’t deliver, with the demise of Graham-Cassidy just his latest failure. But could any other Republican senator do as well? Doubtful. The majority leader’s narrow Republican margin in the Senate is close to crippling, since he can’t afford to lose more than two Republican senators out of a total of just 52 on any issue. Nor would the math change with a new leader.

Mr. McConnell could win if he’d just shut down the filibuster, we are told. But Mr. McConnell has shut down the filibuster on several occasions, including two critical repeal and replace votes, where he still was unable to collect a simple majority because of a tiny clutch of Republican holdouts. He’s working to shelve the filibuster on the president’s new tax proposal as well, but, as the health reform battle reveals, closing off the filibuster is hardly a magic path to victory. Maybe the surest key to winning is ousting incumbent Senate Democrats in 2018, but that’s hardly the focus of Mr. McConnell’s critics.

Despite all the attacks, Mr. McConnell has still gained the most important victory for the Trump administration and conservatives so far: the reshaping of the Obama-packed courts in Antonin Scalia’s image. Mr. McConnell, as noted in the Aug. 22 Commentary section, proved instrumental in placing Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, handing the conservatives a 5-to-4 majority, with the court’s new term just opening.

Largely because of Mr. McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Mr. Trump’s other conservative judicial picks will soon be heading toward the appellate and lower courts in record numbers, as the president has named “more than double the number of federal judges” of any president in his first year, according to Ron Klain, a devoted court watcher for Barack Obama.

The talk radio folks have done a splendid job in exposing the defects of liberals, loony leftists and Democratic politicians. But why should anyone take their sweeping assaults against both Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell seriously when they refuse to celebrate their successes? How, pray tell, does this virtual blackout of good news advance the conservative cause?

• Allan H. Ryskind is a former editor and owner of Human Events and the author of “Hollywood Traitors” (Regnery History, 2015).



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