Paul D. Ryan isn’t even House speaker yet, but conservative grass-roots activists say he can't hide while his predecessor moves a budget and debt-limit deal they despise. Their message: Ryan must lead — now.
Outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner, in setting the stage for Ryan to take the gavel Thursday, is pushing through a major deal the nation’s business community widely cheers. But instead of leaving Ryan with the clean barn the retiring Ohio Republican promised, the move already is creating blowback from GOP hard-liners for the likely speaker. Ryan told NBC the deal’s process “stinks” Tuesday and pledged to run the House a different way, but conservative organizations aren’t buying it and they want to see actions from the incoming speaker, not words.
Ryan's spokesman, Brendan Buck, said his boss’s position on the deal was still to be determined.
“He cannot sit on the sidelines and poor mouth it but do nothing to stop it,” said Boehner critic Dale Huls, a grass-roots organizer for Heritage Action for America and an executive board member of the Clear Lake Tea Party Group. “This is not a clean plate for Paul Ryan. If he does not like this deal, he should rally the Republican caucus and use every trick and procedure in the book to stop this deal.”
Many business and K Street interests, by contrast, are relieved by the potential deal, which would keep the country from breaching its debt ceiling and prevent a government shutdown. The deal also sets up an omnibus appropriations package for December — giving lobbyists and lawmakers alike a potential vehicle to move otherwise stalled legislative goodies.
“Congress and the Administration must not delay any further to avoid market and economic disruption,” said Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a Wall Street group.
The discord between corporate stakeholders and conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America, which are rallying against the deal, shows that Ryan’s assumption of the speaker’s gavel is unlikely to quell the fighting factions within the Republican Party.
Andy Roth, vice present of government affairs for the conservative Club for Growth, said such organizations are looking to “trust but verify” Ryan as speaker.
“If he’s going to be a conservative speaker, pushing for conservative pro-growth policies, he should be doing things now and that includes blocking this deal,” Roth said.
He added that Ryan, who opposes extending the Export-Import Bank, also should have done more to block a vote on a discharge petition aimed at renewing the credit agency. Ryan "should've been more forceful," Roth said.
Roth and others on and off the Hill have noted that the debt-limit and budget deal is similar to a 2013 agreement Ryan worked out with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Rep. Thomas Massie said he thinks the current deal was a "precondition" for Ryan, who initially said he did not want to seek the speaker’s gavel, to run for the position. "I think Paul Ryan’s fingerprints are all over this, whether he takes credit for it or not,” Massie said.
Adam Brandon, CEO of the conservative group FreedomWorks, called the Boehner deal “a travesty" and highlights why he believes a change in the House's top leader was necessary.
“This is not a good way to start the Ryan time,” Brandon said. As for whether the likely next speaker actually opposes the deal, Brandon said, “I’m not looking at taking him at his word, I’m looking to see action.”
Brandon said he’d evaluate how Ryan treats members of the rebellious, hard-right House Freedom Caucus and what types of bills Ryan shepherds to the House floor — especially those related to taxes and regulations.
"I'm just desperate for anything," he said.
Some conservative leaders, though, said taking the two contentious issues off Ryan’s speaker to-do list would help him move forward.
“Is it a good deal? No, it’s not a good deal,” said Sal Russo, co-founder of the Tea Party Express in Sacramento, Calif. “Is it a deal worth passing so we can get to 2017 and get a good deal? That’s the ugly question.”
Ryan McCrimmon and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
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