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We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business,” Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech to the House after being elected as Speaker.

With the election of Paul Ryan to Speaker, we were told things were going to change. Regular order became the new buzzword, with assurances that the House would “work” properly under new management. A long-term highway bill was brought to the floor just weeks after Ryan was sworn in and over a hundred amendments were made in order. Things must be different.

The Freedom Caucus, those rebellious 40-ish Republican Members, won concessions from Ryan: the Steering Committee representation is going to change, an advisory group reflecting House Republicans will meet regularly with the Speaker, policy will come from the committee and not leadership, and the process will be more open to Member input from both sides of the aisle. Things must be different.

Approaching the end of the fiscal year, Ryan and his leadership team held meetings between rank-and-file Republicans and Appropriators to discuss the bills in the omnibus. Weekly policy discussions for the conference are now being held. Two conference reports passed. Things must be different.

Great, the House should now work…

On the day before Ryan was elevated to Speaker, the House voted to increase the spending caps for this fiscal year and the following. But, we can’t forget that only 79 Republicans voted to increase the spending caps while 167 voted against. Sure, this was a John Boehner deal supported by Democrats clearing out major obstacles for the new speaker. But, House Republicans have a brand which doesn’t allow them to vote for spending bills these days and they are now stuck between supporting Ryan or appeasing the base. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Of the three highest profile bills since Ryan became speaker (visas, omnibus, tax extenders), none of them will go through committee. All of these are being produced with leadership’s direct input, negotiating the most vital of proposals. Is this acceptable once again?

“There has to be something that speaks to the base (in the omnibus). Paul needs to realize the honeymoon is over and start bringing us some conservative policy.” –Mick Mulvaney

As we near December 11th, the Freedom Caucus is pressuring Ryan to include controversial conservative riders, most notably on Planned Parenthood and refugees. The likelihood of Democrats agreeing to this and President Obama signing a bill with these attachments are close to zero - if not zero. So now we have 40 Republican Members vowing to scuttle the Speaker’s negotiated package unless they get what they demand. Inevitably, this would lead to Democrats voting as a block to pass funding bills without major conservative policies attached. It seems like we are repeating the last five years all over again on spending bills, doesn’t it?

“The final exam for Paul Ryan will be in January, 2017, when there is a Speaker election, and we will look at his body of work and determine whether he gets a passing grade or not.” – Raul Labrador

So, what’s changed?


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