GOP establishment stands by as activists pummel Ryan

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/paul-ryan-house-republicans-speaker-conservatives-214806

<p>As the right continues to beat up Paul Ryan, hoping to preempt a bid for speaker, much of the GOP establishment is letting him twist in the wind.</p><p>Their thinking: Any public display of affection for Ryan from D.C. players would be his kiss of death — handing ammunition to activists to use against the Ways and Means chairman.</p><p>But the groups’ approach means that there’s no organized response to a chorus of figures and groups on the activist right — from Phyllis Schlafly and Sean Hannity to the Tea Party Patriots — imploring House Republicans to oppose Ryan. </p><p>Natural allies of the Wisconsin Republican such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce aren’t stepping up to get Ryan’s back. And other major business groups, such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses and National Association of Manufacturers, are steering clear of the House GOP’s drawn-out leadership saga.</p><p>Longtime political players say leadership battles ultimately are won or lost under the dome of the Capitol, anyway.</p><p>“The only people with votes are members of Congress so it’s not particularly useful, one way or another, to have an opinion on who should be the next speaker,” said Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, which has stayed on the sidelines rather than encourage support for Ryan, whom many Republicans believe is the only figure capable of commanding the Republican Conference.</p><br><p>The hands-off approach, Norquist added, applies to “everything from getting on committees, to which speaker is more likely to stop for a moment and talk to me and ask me for my opinion … outside groups can’t affect that at all.” A Chamber spokeswoman declined to comment on the speaker race because the business group “does not engage in leadership elections.” NFIB and NAM did not respond to requests for comment.</p><p>The moderate Main Street Partnership appears to be an exception in its willingness to voice support for Ryan, who has made clear he doesn’t want the job but would consider serving if he’s a consensus choice of the party. He’s spending the week in his hometown mulling a final decision.</p><p>“We support Paul Ryan. Our members would gladly vote for him if he chooses to do that,” said Sarah Chamberlain, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of the Main Street Partnership. She noted the group does not endorse in leadership elections.</p><p>The ongoing unrest in the House follows what was supposed to be a tide-turning 2014 midterm election, when the Chamber spent some $70 million to beat tea party candidates and elect more business-friendly lawmakers.</p><p>Less than a year later, their ally atop the Republican Conference, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), was basically forced out. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), another lawmaker they are friendly with, was sidelined in his quest to be speaker. </p><p>And, now they are watching to see if Ryan will shun the gavel.</p><p>The decision for trade associations and companies to not get involved in the leadership race is not wholly surprising. While their agendas will certainly be affected, the groups will have to work with whomever House Republicans choose to succeed Boehner.</p><br><p>Still, the organizations will want to have the ear of the next speaker given the major influence he or she will have over must-pass legislation addressing the debt ceiling and spending. And, the next speaker could look more favorably on bringing back some form of earmarks, which could make it easier for leadership to find the votes for legislative priorities like a transportation bill.</p><p>Still, the establishment’s “say nothing” strategy is a stark contrast to the active role that conservative groups such as Tea Party Patriots are taking. The group launched a “call to action” on Tuesday, urging members to meet with lawmakers over the Columbus Day recess and tell them not to vote for Ryan. Tea Party Patriots says it has more than 2 million grass-roots supporters and is affiliated with more than 600 local groups.</p><p>“There is a reason why Donald Trump and [Ben] Carson and Carly Fiorina are doing so well in the polls right now,” said Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots. “People are very dissatisfied with what’s happening in Washington.”</p><p>Martin said the group’s decision to back Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) is based on Ryan’s support of legislation like No Child Left Behind and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and his position on immigration.</p><p>ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell, who has previously supported Ryan publicly, is also coming out against the 2012 vice presidential candidate.</p><p>“It’s crystal clear that it’s going to be more of the same if he is elected speaker,” Bozell said.</p><p>Bozell, who declined to comment on whom he would support, said that so far he hasn’t begun reaching out to ForAmerica’s grass-roots members because it isn’t clear that Ryan will run.</p><p>“No matter where you are in this debate, no one is quite sure what to do,” Bozell said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sprinkle some fairy dust to make everybody happy. It’s not going to happen.”</p><p>Tea Party Patriots and ForAmerica join other conservative activists, such as Schlafly and Hannity, in criticizing Ryan as too accommodating.</p><br><p>Not all conservative groups are wading into the anti-Ryan fray. Heritage Action issued a three-page memo in late September detailing its vision for what the next set of Republican leaders should deliver, including tax reform, entitlement reform and significant internal reforms.</p><p>Ryan has a 63 percent lifetime rating on Heritage Action’s legislative scorecard.</p><p>A Heritage Action spokesman said the group would not be getting involved in the race beyond the memo. </p><br>

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