Not so fast, Paul Ryan

Op-Ed by Congressman Dave Brat.

The Washington elites, who have missed every major call of this political season, are now informing us that the speaker’s race is just “inside baseball.” They could not be more wrong.

They should try answering my office phones for one day. My constituents and the American people are paying attention, and demanding their rightful place in our nation’s governance.

On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus, of which I’m a member, had a productive meeting with Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan made his case for why he should be the next speaker of the House. Caucus members made their case for rules changes that would enable members to better serve the will of their constituents. He gave the members critical assurances on a number of significant issues.

But my constituents were not in the room, and so aren’t aware of the assurances that were made that night. As their representative, I want to make sure they are getting the facts. It’s my job to bring them into the room.

This is especially true because of the narrative that’s being promoted in the press suggesting that Congressman Ryan somehow pulled a fast one over caucus members — one headline at Politico went so far as to say Ryan “conquered the Freedom Caucus.” That kind of thing damages the goodwill that existed in our meeting.

Given the desire we all have to find common cause over shared principles, bomb-throwing like that serves no good purpose. It creates a toxic environment where voters are left in the dark. It’s time to cut through the clutter and provide clarity.

Shortly after Speaker Boehner announced his resignation, I released a list of ten commitments the next Speaker and all House leaders should make — a list that former House Speaker and author of the Contract with America Newt Gingrich referred to as “a very good list” that is “well worth looking at.” These commitments are not tied to individual candidates and were made available weeks prior to Congressman Ryan’s announcement.

As candidates for Speaker entered the race, I asked each of them whether they could commit to those 10 principles — on paper. The simple reason for this is that the American people deserve some sense of what their next Speaker will do.

So far, I’ve received confirmations from several candidates, but have yet to receive a written response from Congressman Ryan.
Congressman Ryan has rightfully noted that he does not want to submit to preconditions from any group. That is fine. But at the same time, he must give the American people some sense of the principles we can hold him to.

I respect Rep. Ryan and his passionate service to our nation. His budget credentials are unquestioned, and he can be a great spokesman who helps our party communicate on the economic challenges we face going forward.

I have always said that this Speaker’s race is not about the person. It is about the principles, and making the necessary structural reforms so that the process serves the best interest of the American people, and not just the political class.

Our national debt is approximately $19 trillion and we have almost $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. In order to turn things around, we need to be unified. This is too important a decision to leave to a few people in Washington who think they should tell us who our next Speaker should be. For our party to be truly united, and get things done, our next Speaker will need the support of the American people. Communicating honestly with them is a good start.