The final days of Boehner’s speakership went by quietly and surprisingly smoothly. A few key bills were passed. Although few, these bills all held tremendous significance. One of them plotted out a government budget for the next two years and another extended the federal borrowing limit, which allows the government to continue borrowing up until March 2017, right after the new president will take office.
The passage of these bills, along with a reopening of the Export-Import Bank and the extension of federal transportation programs, demonstrates the “cleaning of the barn” that John Boehner wanted before he left. It also provides some much needed breathing room for the new speaker, Paul Ryan, to rein in the conservatives who have come to dominate the Republican Party. The only question remaining is that now that all the housekeeping is done, will Ryan become a symbol of bipartisanship or a continuation of Boehner’s disorder?
The answer is none of the above, judging from Ryan’s recent comments that he will not work with President Barack Obama on immigration and also on the fact that he plans on being a leader based upon consensus. In layman’s terms, Ryan will lead a harmonious Republican Party but most likely pass bills or attempt to pass bills that are incompatible with Democratic principles.
In other words, he will be Boehner when Boehner allowed the conservatives free reign. So for the next year we can expect a slew of conservative bills passed by the House, possibly by the Senate, and then vetoed by Obama. Ryan’s flat out refusal to cooperate with Obama is why I make this claim. When one of the leading Republicans in government refuses to cooperate with the leading Democrat in government, it’s really hard to muster hope for a bipartisan accord.
If Ryan were to actually attempt to reach across the aisle, governing might go smoothly. This outcome is also completely possible, and although the bills passed in Boehner’s final days were not supported by a majority of Republicans, this can be done by simple compromise. This is not to say that all fault lies with the Republicans, as there are uncompromising Democrats, but as the party holds both leadership positions in both houses, the onus is on them to lead compromise.
Democrats of course will be receptive to this plan of action and will probably provide the most input, as we as a body tend to be more cooperative. One thing that the Republican leaders should realize is that although they lead the majority, they also lead our government. They must avoid gridlock and should also not hold fear in stepping on the toes of their more radical caucus members. This will necessitate a lot of courage, but as leaders, shouldn’t they already have this quality?