Honeymoon Over: Speaker Paul Ryan Targets His Own Republicans, Not Democrats, with Ads on Health Care

Ryan Looks Down on Trump SAUL LOEB AFPGetty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan is openly targeting House Republicans with television advertisements—while conspicuously not hitting Democratic members—to try to browbeat them into supporting his healthcare legislation.

The remarkable development, in which a GOP leadership-connected organization is now opening fire on the airwaves against Ryan’s own members, is ultimately one of the main tactics employed by Ryan’s predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner—one that was instrumental in forcing his resignation in 2015.

And while this is going on, with Ryan unrelentingly pushing for this American Health Care Act—nicknamed by many Republicans who oppose it “Ryancare,” “Obamacare 2.0,” or “Obamacare Lite”—members in the House GOP conference are beginning to whisper about replacing not just Obamacare but replacing Ryan as Speaker.

“A group with close ties to House Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), is airing a half-million dollars’ worth of television ads in more than two dozen media markets urging unruly conservatives to support GOP health-care legislation,” the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reported on Thursday.

Particularly, the group American Action Network—a group the Post notes is “affiliated with” Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC—“is targeting 30 members it says are part of the House Freedom Caucus,” DeBonis writes.

“The Republicans’ American Health Care Act versus Obamacare,” a narrator says in the Ryan-connected ads. “Obamacare is full of job-destroying mandates. The new plan eliminates them. Obamacare put bureaucrats in control. The Republican plan puts patients and doctors in charge. Obamacare stuck families with soaring premiums. The new plan provides more choices and lower costs.”

Most of those claims are untrue. The Ryan bill does not eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate, the highly controversial part of Obamacare that forced all Americans to buy a health insurance plan even if they did not want one or face a tax penalty collected by the IRS. Ryan’s bill still forces all Americans to buy healthcare, but gives the penalty collected for not doing so to insurance companies.

The bureaucrats versus patients and doctors claim can also be challenged, given that the AARP and the American Medical Association both oppose the bill, while the bureaucrat-connected Washington establishment organization the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs Ryan’s plan.

And the claim this bill cuts costs doesn’t hold muster either, as everyone from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to the House Freedom Caucus to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) are concerned Ryan’s bill actually does the reverse.

The ad then cuts to President Trump’s recent address to a joint session of Congress, where Trump says he wants to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”

The bill does not repeal Obamacare. It just amends it. In fact, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Cotton laid out how the bill “will not deliver on the main promises of President Trump and congressional Republicans” of repealing and replacing Obamacare. Nonetheless, the ad’s narrator concludes by blaming Trump for Ryan’s bill and urging the Republican members Ryan is targeting to “vote with President Trump.” While the narrator says that, the text “repeal and replace Obamacare”—again, inaccurately claiming the bill repeals Obamacare—appears on screen.

This comes as Ryan is unlikely at this time–despite whatever he says at press conferences–to get 218 votes to pass this legislation on the House floor. Heritage Foundation president former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina says that Ryan does have the votes to pass the bill in the House, as do many others.

House Republicans are furious that Ryan is using precious resources and money that could be used to beat Democrats in 2018 midterm elections to attack his own members.

“This is the beginning of his downfall,” one House Republican, who wished not to be named, told Breitbart News of Ryan’s decision to open fire on his own conference with television ads. The member noted that it was about two years ago exactly that Boehner did the same thing, and his days were numbered after that.

“I think Paul Ryan sees himself as about as untouchable as John Boehner did and that’s a dangerous position of hubris,” another member told Breitbart News.

One member told Breitbart News that Ryan explicitly promised, during a meeting with the House Freedom Caucus in the fall of 2015 around the time he announced his campaign for the Speakership, that he would absolutely not engage in this tactic used by Boehner—television ads to browbeat Republicans into supporting leadership initiatives.

Brendan Buck, Ryan’s chief spokesman, has not responded to requests for comment as to why the Speaker is targeting his own members with television ads and why he is breaking the promise he made to House Republicans that he would not use this Boehner-crafted tactic to push leadership initiatives.

While it’s certainly still too early to predict if any coup on Ryan would be successful—or if any serious one may materialize at all—the fact that members of the House Republican conference are even whispering about this is remarkable in and of itself.

Less than two months into President Donald Trump’s administration, nobody thought Republicans would be engaged in an internecine war over a bill that some claim repeals Obamacare but actually does not. Nor did anyone think that Ryan’s lack of organization on the issue that supposedly united Republicans for seven years since Obamacare first passed would be—given his failure to put forward a plan that achieves Trump’s and Republicans’ objectives of repealing and replacing Obamacare—even close to contemplating any effort to vote for a Republican alternative to Ryan as Speaker of the House.

Before Trump’s landslide electoral college victory over Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Nov. 8 in the general presidential election, it was widely presumed that Ryan was in fact in serious trouble over his speakership—and that there were enough Republicans willing to vote for an alternative as Speaker in 2017. Trump’s win, and particularly his win in Wisconsin, saved Ryan for the time-being. But the honeymoon is over.


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