While many are surely relieved that Republicans have finally elected a new Speaker of the House, not everyone is happy with their choice. Senator Elizabeth Warren made it clear this week that she is among those who are unhappy with the job going to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Warren spoke at the Politico Morning Money breakfast meeting this week and took the opportunity to rip into Ryan, calling his budget proposals “just truly breathtaking.”
“We seem to have a breakdown in just a kind of agreement about what government is supposed to be about,”
Warren said regarding Ryan’s election as the new Speaker of the House, Adding:
“We’re talking about someone who wants to privatize large parts of Social Security, someone who wants to make big cuts in the investments we make in education, in infrastructure, in the pieces that help us build a future together.”
Ryan has become well known nationally as well as highly popular in certain conservative circles largely because of his work devising budgets that would gash government spending. His reputation as a budget wonk helped him earn the GOP nomination for Vice President alongside Mitt Romney in 2012, and it also made him a natural choice for Republicans who desperately sought someone who would be able to overcome the party’s increasingly unstable rifts and actually get elected.
After former Speaker John Boehner’s announcement that he would be resigning from the job, it soon began to look like the turmoil within the party might make it impossible for anyone to earn the necessary majority vote. Ryan, though, was ultimately able to win that majority with 247 votes, despite recent criticism from the extreme right wing of the GOP that Ryan is actually too liberal. Ryan beat out Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ choice, who received 184 votes.
Despite Ryan’s reputation as a numbers guy, his budgets fit easily within the hard-line conservative ideology that has dominated the House of Representatives in recent years. For example, his 2012 “Path to Prosperity” budget bill would have replaced Medicare with a voucher system, repealed the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare), privatized myriad government agencies, and, of course, cut taxes on large corporations and wealthy individuals if it had passed. The good news, though, is that Ryan won’t have an opportunity to take the budget or debt ceiling negotiations hostage for awhile, as Republicans in the House have done as a matter of routine since winning back the majority in 2010.
In his final days on the job, Boehner displayed his weariness with that brand of politics by going against the will of his own party to get a combined budget and debt ceiling deal passed using mostly Democratic votes. Warren also expressed her approval of the bill, which has now passed in both chambers of Congress and awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.
“Overall, we’ve got a bill where, for the first time, it looks like we’re going to take off the table having the Republicans shut down the government over raising the debt ceiling, and that’s a very important thing,” Warren commented.
Barring a Democratic wave that washes away the Republican majority and pushes Ryan out of the Speaker role in the 2016 elections, the hard-line tactics will most likely remain commonplace for the foreseeable future under Ryan. And while it is nice to not have to worry about that for the moment, Warren is probably right to be worried about what Ryan’s election could mean somewhere down the line.