Seven years of false promises finally caught up with Republicans

Among the U.S. political developments I never would have predicted: the Republican-controlled Congress was unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act under a president ready to sign the bill into law. After canceling a planned floor vote today on the American Health Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged, “Obamacare is the law of the land. … We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

In the depths of my despair after the November election, I felt sure that the Affordable Care Act would be history by now, and Congress would be well on the way to privatizing Medicare.

Among the many reasons Republicans failed to draft a coherent health care alternative and could not coalesce around the half-baked American Health Care Act, the most important is this:

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Steve King defends scrapping Ethics Office; Blum and Young say they oppose

The main order of business in the U.S. House on January 3 was electing the speaker on the first day of the new session. House members returned Paul Ryan to that position with only one dissenting vote from the GOP caucus, in contrast to January 2015, when Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among 25 Republicans not supporting Speaker John Boehner’s re-election.

The big news on Tuesday, however, was House Republicans backpedaling on their vote the previous night to gut the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

While staff for dozens of House members hid behind “we don’t know” or “we’ll get back to you” in response to constituent calls, King became one of the few “loud and proud” supporters of the amendment. In fact, he will seek to abolish the office rather than merely neutering it.

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The Big Fight Democrats Can't Afford to Lose

Thanks to susaniniowa for stating it so clearly: “This is the first moment of the election of 2018. If we blow it, we can expect to lose.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

I have been reading a lot of social media comments from Bernie Sanders supporters who think he “sold out” because he said Clinton would remain an important voice in the party. I think they are profoundly wrong about Bernie, and about how to respond to what we face now. We cannot confront the coming threats to the well-being of our fellow citizens and the planet itself if we allow ourselves to be divided. Our first and biggest fight may come as soon as January. We cannot afford to lose it.

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Paul Ryan says he won't accept GOP nomination. Is he for real?

image from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s video, “Politics These Days”

A few minutes ago, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters, “Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the Republican nomination.” According to Amber Phillips of the Washington Post, today’s announcement was the nineteenth time Ryan or someone speaking on his behalf has ruled out running for president in 2016. Yet many Republicans hope that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz will win the 1,237 votes needed to secure the presidential nomination at the GOP national convention in Cleveland, allowing delegates to turn to Ryan as a unifying figure on the third or fourth ballot. That scenario may be the least-bad among a number of unappealing possibilities facing Republicans, as the party’s front-runner has historically high unfavorable ratings.

Ryan said today that delegates should “Count me out” if there is a brokered convention: “I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee for our party – to be the president – you should actually run for it. I chose not to do this. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period. End of story.”

Meanwhile, the House speaker is running a “parallel policy campaign,” which he calls #ConfidentAmerica. This campaign could be designed to insulate GOP House candidates from a landslide loss at the top of the ticket. But to me and many other observers, the #ConfidentAmerica materials resemble presidential candidate tv ads. I’ve enclosed one video after the jump, so you can judge for yourself.

Any speculation about what might happen in a GOP brokered convention is welcome in this thread. Whether Trump can lock down the nomination on June 7 depends on several factors Bleeding Heartland user fladem discussed here, and on whether Cruz continues to outperform late polling in the remaining primaries.

Governor Terry Branstad has so far refused to say how he would vote on a second or subsequent ballot, if he becomes a delegate to the RNC. Senator Joni Ernst has suggested that “it would be hard to get buy-in” for nominating someone who did not run for president this year.

UPDATE: NPR’s Susan Davis observed, “Paul Ryan raised $17.2m in Q1. He’s raised $23.5m since becoming speaker in Oct. This probably means he’s running for president.” Yes, it probably does.

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IA-04, IA-Gov?: Bill Northey endorses Steve King for Congress

The Republican National Convention delegate elections grabbed most of the attention from today’s Iowa GOP district conventions, but Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey made some news at the fourth district gathering in Fort Dodge. Kathie Obradovich reported for the Des Moines Register,

“When I think of somebody I want in the room talking with conservative congressmen and senators, a potential president, on ethanol issues, I want Steve King,” [Northey] said.

King, in turn, suggested a promotion for Northey — but not to governor, a job for which he is often mentioned as a potential candidate. He noted there will be a new U.S. Agriculture secretary next year. “We’ll no longer have Secretary (Tom) Vilsack. I think maybe Secretary Northey sounds pretty good to me.”

King touted the quadrupling of ag land values during the first 12 years he was in Congress. “We should not forget, those are the best 12 years that agriculture has ever had in the history of this state during that period of time,” he said.

You don’t have to be an economist to know the rise in Iowa farmland values since 2003 has very little connection to who represented our state in Congress. But let’s leave that aside for now. Northey and King have long had a friendly political relationship. The ag secretary cut a radio ad King aired near the end of his toughest re-election campaign, the 2012 race against Christie Vilsack in a substantially redrawn district. Click through to read the transcript of that commercial, in which Northey touted King’s record on agriculture issues and support from farm groups. I would not be surprised to see a similar testimonial hit the airwaves before King’s June 7 primary against State Senator Rick Bertrand. People linked to the ethanol industry are among Bertrand’s heavy-hitter supporters, largely because King endorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president, despite Cruz’s stand on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Speaking of the presidential race, King discussed possible brokered convention scenarios on this weekend’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. He predicted that “neither Trump nor Cruz delegates are going to tolerate anyone coming in from the outside that hasn’t been a candidate,” such as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. The full video and transcript are here; I’ve enclosed relevant excerpts below.

Northey is widely considered likely to run for governor in 2018 rather than for a fourth term as secretary of agriculture. King’s support could be helpful in a primary that will almost certainly include at least two other candidates: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett. Neither has a strong base in rural Iowa, although Corbett has tried to bolster his credentials with the farm community by touting all-voluntary efforts to reduce agricultural runoff and bashing some efforts to regulate farm-based pollution.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Paul Ryan elected House speaker: How the Iowans voted

Yesterday House Republicans elected 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan as House speaker to replace the retiring John Boehner. Ryan received 236 votes to 184 for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and nine for Daniel Webster, the candidate endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus and some other conservatives. For some time after the implosion of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s aspirations to be speaker, Ryan had insisted he would prefer to remain Ways and Means Committee chair, but last week he succumbed to an intense recruiting effortby senior Republicans.

Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for Ryan yesterday on the House floor. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted for Pelosi. I enclose below comments from Blum and King after the speaker election. Both had voted for Webster rather than to re-elect Boehner in January. Since Boehner announced his retirement last month, King has been one of the loudest advocates for Webster as speaker. Blum belongs to the House Freedom Caucus, so I suspect he was among the 43 Republicans who voted for Webster in a closed caucus meeting on October 28. However, neither Blum nor his staff responded to my request for comment on whether he supported Webster or Ryan, who received 200 votes in that closed meeting.

I did not see any public comment from Young in recent weeks on whom he would support for speaker. I assume he backed Ryan in closed session as well as on the House floor, but his staff did not disclose that information when I sought comment.

Webster said on October 28 that

his campaign for speaker had been a game-changer, one that had all but forced Ryan and others to promise an overhaul of the culture of the GOP Conference.

“I think we have changed the debate, changed the discussion away from a power-based system, away from a top-down approach, to one that works,” Webster said. “And if we can do that, we’ll be successful. If we don’t, we won’t be.”

King’s case for Webster slammed the “abuse of power plays by leadership” under Boehner and the “schism created by leadership’s persistent and relentless punishment of principled Members who vote their conscience.” Ryan promised yesterday to unify the GOP caucus, suggesting he will not seek revenge on those who opposed him as speaker, like Boehner did earlier this year.

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