Oct 20, 2015

Simpson: Ryan should seek speaker's chair or risk damaging presidential aspirations

The U.S House of Representatives currently resembles “a circus ring” or “a clown gathering” and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., should be the one to set it straight, said former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson.

“That’s what the House looks like right now: just a great gathering of clowns, all with the Republican tag behind them,” Simpson said last week on KODI-AM's “Speak Your Piece.” However, the Republican politician from Cody said the House “could go to a good place” if Ryan seeks the speaker’s chair.

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson
Current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced he’ll resign from his post after losing the support of the party’s more conservative wing. Boehner’s presumed successor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., withdrew his candidacy after similarly facing opposition from the right wing.

Leading the rebellion has been a group of roughly 40 lawmakers — including Wyoming's representative, Cynthia Lummis — who make up the House Freedom Caucus.

After Boehner’s announced his resignation last month, Lummis said she'd be working with a group to find a candidate “who will restore regular order, who will allow committees to do their work, and to report legislation to the floor that has come through the committee process.”

“We’ll also be looking for a speaker who will elevate and restore Congress’s rightful role as a co-equal branch of our government,” Lummis said in a September statement.

While Lummis hasn’t announced her preferred candidate, the Freedom Caucus has officially endorsed Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., a lawmaker who Simpson says “makes a right-winger look like Hubert Humphrey.” (“If they get Dan Webster, the real Dan Webster of historical fame will be rolling like a pinwheel in his grave,” Simpson joked during his KODI interview.)


Despite the endorsement of Rep. Webster, Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has also said the group would “look favorably” on Ryan if he runs for speaker.

Ryan intially said he’s uninterested in the position. However, Simpson said on KODI on Oct. 13 that Ryan — the Republican party’s nominee for vice president in 2012 — has been “rethinking his no” and needs to take the opportunity to unify “the no caucus” and the rest of the House Republicans.

Simpson described recently leaving Ryan a voicemail that warned choosing not seeking the position of speaker could hurt his chances of one day becoming president.

Simpson recalled his message to Ryan as: “You’re going to run for president again some time ... and at that time, they’re going to say, ‘Wait a minute, you were in the House of Representatives when it was the most dysfunctional this party has ever been, and you could have been the leader to lead us out of that, and you didn’t, and now you want to lead the United States? Forget it.’”

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.
One complication is that history suggests becoming speaker might be plenty damaging to Ryan's presidential aspirations. “Speak Your Piece” caller Dewey Vanderhoff noted that only one Speaker of the House has become president: James K. Polk in 1845.

Simpson conceded that similarly, no Speaker of the House in the Wyoming Legislature has gone on to become the state’s governor.

“Because you have irritated too many people,” Simpson explained on KODI, adding that, “when you’re a leader, you take flack.”

While Ryan advancing from speaker to president would face long historical odds, Simpson suggested that if the Wisconsin lawmaker was able to pull the Freedom Caucus and the rest of the “extraordinarily diverse group” of Republicans in the House together, “that would be just as historical.”

~By CJ Baker

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