Move over, Mitch! Paul Ryan lets slip secrets of how GOP will run the Senate

Paul Ryan vows the nuttiest House bills will make the president's desk if Mitch McConnell becomes majority leader

Published September 5, 2014 2:58PM (EDT)

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell                (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Photo montage by Salon)
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Photo montage by Salon)

Move over, Sen. Mitch McConnell! Rep. Paul Ryan is telling the world what you’ll do if Republicans take over the Senate.

It’s only fair, I guess, since Speaker Ted Cruz is running the House.

But seriously, who came up with this strategy, shared by McConnell, to drive a big midterm GOP victory by promising to move the political process from paralysis to rigor mortis? First McConnell told his paymasters, the Kochs, that he’ll court another government shutdown by attaching riders to spending bills that the president will almost certainly have to veto. After running that notion by the Kochs at their June retreat, and finding they liked it, McConnell brought it to Politico last month.

Now Ryan goes McConnell one better by telling the Hill’s Scott Wong that the Senate will take up unpopular House GOP legislation that Majority Leader Harry Reid has supposedly bottled up.

“Right now, Harry Reid is protecting the president from making difficult decisions, and I believe that we can unblock a number of things that should at least get to the president’s desk and make him make a decision,” Ryan promised.

Is Ryan suggesting the new GOP-led Senate will vote 50 times to repeal Obamacare? Or lead off 2015 with a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, as the House GOP did in 2011? Wong also reports that Ryan “wants Republicans to make the Obama administration ‘stretch a little further in our direction’ when it comes to reforming entitlements and the budget process.”

Cutting entitlements: That will certainly help Republicans win back the White House in 2016.

Of course, Ryan presumes that a majority Senate GOP would be as conservative and obstructionist as the House, which is a fairly faulty assumption. Even some of the most conservative Senate candidates are trimming their sails to get elected, especially in purple states. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis has gone from boasting that he blocked Medicaid expansion in the state Legislature, to staying mum about it in the wake of a study showing that decision will cost the state $10 billion over the next eight years.

Forced to run statewide, few senators can afford the ideological grandstanding that comes risk-free in a lot of gerrymandered House districts.

As for reforming entitlements, the GOP muzzled Ryan about his own budget and Medicare plans when he ran for vice president in 2012; it’s hard to imagine the party putting those issues center stage when trying to hold the Senate and win back the White House in 2016.

But let’s assume Ryan is correct: I can imagine few things that would give a lame duck Obama more pleasure, in what would otherwise be a grim two last years in office, than wielding a veto pen against boneheaded GOP legislation. He doesn’t have to run for office again; he would have no incentive to find ways to work with a far-right GOP Congress.

There's something to brighten everyone’s day in the Ryan interview: He says he’s open to running with Mitt Romney again in 2016. “I’d do whatever Mitt would ask of me, including drive his campaign bus if he thought that was the way I could be the most useful,” he declared. We can dream.

By Joan Walsh