Tags: Donald Trump | Healthcare Reform | Paul Ryan | committee | congress | constitution

Ryan Can't Succeed by Deferring to Trump

Ryan Can't Succeed by Deferring to Trump

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined by GOP members of leadership, pauses as he speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, March 28, 2017. The topic? Getting past last week's failure to pass a healthcare overhaul bill and rebuilding unity aomng Republicans. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Tuesday, 28 March 2017 01:51 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Last week, Republicans handed themselves a defeat in the U.S. House of Representatives as Paul Ryan’s healthcare bill was pulled from consideration.

This past weekend, many of the players in that drama gave interviews about their respective roles in the week-long drama.

One theme was prevalent in almost every interview. While offering vacant lip service to the understanding of the respective roles of the two branches of government, each player had no idea of how to implement those differences to achieve the success of any bill.

Reince Priebus particularly was all over the place.

Clearly, he is confused about his role in government, wavering between his former role as the top Republican marshalling everyone behind the party banner and his new role as the Chief of Staff and marshalling everyone behind the president’s efforts.

Neither position is correct; the president is an informal participant in legislating, at best and the party has no role whatever.

Legislation is the sole province of Congress, full stop.

Check out Article 1, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress . . . " Front and center in the document – these are the very first words of the Constitution — after the preamble.

These words mean what they say. Not, "some" or "most" or "whenever the president doesn’t feel like getting involved," but "all" legislative power is vested in Congress.

These are not just nice words written a couple of centuries ago which can be ignored by today’s "smarter and better" leaders in our public life.

These words are mandatory.

They not only allow Congress to drive the legislative train but require it.

I fear Paul Ryan doesn’t understand this.

When Speaker Ryan rolled-out the replacement bill it was conceived in secret and pushed out without utilizing the regular order process — that is, the ordinary method (now increasingly rarely used) to move an important bill involving mark-ups, hearings, public input and discussion and a general sales job to the American public.

Believing that "ramming and jamming" the bill through the House of Representatives would be better than selling it, Ryan moved the measure through sham mark-ups in two committees, and then moved it to the House floor for quick action.

Ryan might have thought this necessary being that he had a timing problem concerning certain arcane budget requirements and the manifest necessity to avoid the Senate’s cloture rule. By selecting the reconciliation process in which to move the measure, Ryan avoided the cloture problems but necessarily had to get the job done very early in the year.

The upshot was that these factors required that the measure move quickly — very quickly.

However, had Ryan been ready on Jan. 3, he could have utilized the regular order process to move the bill. It could have been ready last week — just the same.

Instead of amending the bill in committee and on the floor as regular order would have required, he did it piecemeal, in private (after the committee mark-ups!) with separate members demanding this or that and then he used the Rules Committee to adopt the changes — without debate or even informing the body of the changes.

By Friday morning the process had become so broken that the speaker couldn’t successfully move the now-patchwork effort up, on and off the floor of the U.S. House.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the new president was invited into the process and eventually took it over. President Trump not only lobbied members but went to Capitol Hill to do it — a highly unusual thing.

This effort was successful in that many members were brought onto the bill. But, the effort ultimately failed as not enough were convinced to support the measure. It’s not the president’s job to perform the heavy lift here, it is Ryan’s job to work his own Conference and manage the House.

The president was glad to help and did what he could to pass the bill but it is simply not his job — it is the job of the legislature to produce work product. It’s Ryan’s job.

Then, incredibly, Ryan put the timing of the bill’s passage in the hands of the White House. The president thought that he was helping with an ultimatum of a "now or never" vote set for Friday but this is not how legislation works. Legislation has a rhythm which has to be felt and obeyed.

Clearly, no one involved has any understanding of that rhythm, especially Ryan.

Last, Ryan pulled the bill only after seeking assent from the president with a trip to the White House Friday afternoon. By this time it was clear that the president was fully in charge of the effort and not because President Trump demanded it but because Ryan gave it to him.

After watching this, it is clear that Speaker Ryan has little or no understanding of his role in government and is not helped by Reince Priebus who is equally poorly informed.

They are part of the Washington, D.C. swamp which loves to throw out otherwise essential rules for that which is expedient.

If Paul Ryan is to survive as speaker he had better assert himself, take control of the process, return to real regular order and manage the process as it advances.

Ryan can keep the president informed as the bill proceeds and to even ask for some informal help along the way but must never seek permission to do his job or turn that job over to the president — any president.

To turn the keys of the chamber over to the president is not what the Founders intended nor is it what is best for Congress — or the nation.

Subverting the people’s branch to the executive – however benign, well-intended or innocent — is the short road to autocracy.

Congress has behaved in this vein quite a bit during the last two presidencies. It needs to stop here.

Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., rolled-out the replacement healthcare bill, without using regular order. Trump fully took it over. It’s not the president’s job to perform heavy lifting, it's Ryan’s. Speaker Ryan has no understanding of his role. If Ryan is to survive he had better assert himself.
committee, congress, constitution
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 01:51 PM
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