Republican officials in Congress and the White House are now openly discussing finding a GOP replacement to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker of the House, after Ryan failed to pass the American Health Care Act out of the House and misled the public and President Donald Trump when he promised repeatedly the bill would pass.
Ryan was caught on an audio file from October—obtained by Breitbart News and published a couple weeks ago—saying he is “not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future.” While the audio file does not make the comments clear, Ryan’s staff later claimed that it was specifically about the Access Hollywood tape scandal from the election. The audio tape of Ryan, recorded from a House GOP members’ conference call, does not make that context clear.
Many allies of the president and several White House officials over the weeks since have confirmed to Breitbart News that the president is concerned that Ryan may not have his—or his agenda’s—best interests at heart. Ryan’s failure to deliver the votes on healthcare cement Trump’s skepticism of Ryan, they say.
“This is another example of the staff not serving the president well and the weakness of the Paul Ryan speakership,” a source close to President Trump told Breitbart News. “This calls into question once again the speaker’s commitment to supporting Donald Trump and his agenda.”
“Speaker Ryan proved today that he does not have the best interests of the President at heart,” said another source close to the president. “He sold out the president and showed his word can be taken with a grain of salt. There is only one course of action that should be taken to move past this catastrophe and that is the swift removal of Paul Ryan from the speakership.”
White House sources tell Breitbart News that the president is very frustrated with Ryan and feels that he has saved him multiple times already. After the election in November, it was widely reported that there were enough Republican votes to remove Ryan as Speaker—and the only reason conservatives kept him is that Trump won the election and embraced Ryan. But now Trump may perceive Ryan as a burden rather than someone who can help enact his agenda.
A senior Senate GOP aide questioned whether Ryan has the chops to continue in the position.
“A tale as old as time, our establishment leadership continue advocating for moderate pieces of legislation after ignoring conservative input,” the Senate aide said. “How can President Donald Trump trust Speaker Paul Ryan in the future after this failure? If he couldn’t deliver on something so simple as repealing Obamacare, will he be able to deliver on complex pieces of legislation?”
House Republicans are also questioning whether Ryan can remain as Speaker after this abysmal failure.
“If Speaker Ryan cannot pass his RyanCare plan and negotiations had to be taken to the Oval Office by non-leadership members of the conference, it is certainly time to evaluate his effectiveness as the Speaker of the House,” a senior House GOP aide told Breitbart News.
Senior aides from at least seven House GOP offices—only two from the House Freedom Caucus—tell Breitbart News that there is significant discussion conference-wide about a replacement to Ryan as Speaker of the House.
It has gotten so far along in the process that alternative names are being thrown around—anyone from House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), to former Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)—to Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Peter Roskam (R-IL), according to one senior House GOP aide.
But nobody has yet emerged as an official challenger to Ryan, and it is unclear if anyone will. All of those names and more, aides say, would be more open to proactively supporting President Trump, something Ryan has repeatedly refused to do.
The fact that Frelinghuysen—a committee chairman of the powerful House panel that oversees the disbursement of government cash–came out publicly against the legislation is proof that Ryan has problems inside the House GOP conference that go much deeper than the House Freedom Caucus. It is worth noting that Frelinghuysen is a direct descendant of America’s founding fathers, and his family has served in Congress in every generation since the 1700s.
Little known facts: Rodney Frelinghuysen is political royalty. His greatx4-grandfather was a delegate to the Continental Congress.
— Paul Blumenthal (@PaulBlu) March 24, 2017
Every Frelinghuysen generation has served in Congress from 1793 to present day.
— Paul Blumenthal (@PaulBlu) March 24, 2017
There are ongoing discussions in House offices conference-wide whether Republicans should use the same tactic that conservatives used in 2015 to remove now-former Speaker John Boehner from the House. Back then, Meadows—then just a member of the House Freedom Caucus—introduced what is called a resolution with a motion to vacate the chair. He did so just before August recess, allowing it to gain public support.
When it reached critical mass, and enough Republicans backed it publicly or privately, a group of members approached Boehner to inform him they had enough votes to remove him from the Speakership. To avoid the public embarrassment of a vote in which he would be defeated, Boehner resigned and allowed for the peaceful shift to his eventual successor, Ryan—which only happened after a tumultuous process. Members are beginning to wonder if it is now the time to use the same move on Ryan, given his disloyalty to Trump. Some Republicans want to wait for a smoke signal or sign from the White House that the president wants Ryan gone. Others want to just get it over with to help the president move on from the mess Ryan created.
Asked explicitly whether President Trump has confidence in Ryan remaining as Speaker, White House press secretary Sean Spicer would not answer Breitbart News, yes or no.
“The president believes Speaker Ryan has worked very hard to repeal and replace Obamacare and replace it with a patient centric healthcare system that lowers costs and increases choices,” Spicer said in an email on Thursday evening, not responding to follow-up emails pressing further for an explicit expression of confidence—or not—from the President in Ryan’s speakership.
But Spicer was asked if Ryan should resign if the vote fails during an interview with Fox News’s Eric Bolling, who was guest hosting on Thursday for Bill O’Reilly, and he said, “Absolutely not.”
Trump was asked in the Oval Office by reporters on Friday morning if Ryan should resign if and when the bill fails, and the President said no—for now.
“Trump said Friday at the White House that Ryan shouldn’t lose his job if the bill goes down,” Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Shannon Pettypiece wrote. “He also said ‘no’ when asked if the bill had been rushed or if he regretted pursuing a replacement of the Affordable Care Act ahead of other priorities such as a tax overhaul.”
After that question was asked of the President on Friday morning, Spicer was repeatedly asked the same thing Friday afternoon at his White House press briefing. Spicer referred back to the president’s comments, but added that he believes “The Speaker has done everything he can—he’s worked really closely with the president—and I think at the end of the day, I said this yesterday, you can’t force people to vote, but I think we’ve given them every single reason to fulfill every pledge that they’ve made and I think this is the right thing to do.”
Ryan’s office has not answered multiple inquiries from Breitbart News over the past several days as to whether he will resign to clear the way for President Trump’s larger agenda items.
Jacobs and Pettypiece, though, quoted a senior administration official to note that “The president’s aides are planning to blame Ryan if there is an embarrassing defeat on a bill that has been a Republican goal for more than seven years.”
The Bloomberg writers noted that when “asked whether Trump, Ryan, or the Freedom Caucus chairman, North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, would be most to blame if the bill fails, the administration official said Ryan.”
They also quote NewsMax’s Chris Ruddy, a friend of Trump’s, who says that Ryan is not being helpful to Trump.
“I think Paul Ryan did a major disservice to President Trump. I think the president was extremely courageous in taking on health care and trusted others to come through with a program he could sign off on,” Ruddy said. “The President had confidence Paul Ryan would come up with a good plan and to me, it is disappointing.”
Bloomberg’s piece also questions the future of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, a Ryan ally who previously was Republican National Committee chairman and was also a central part of pushing this bill, alongside his longtime friend from Wisconsin.
“A Trump associate who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s views on the matter said that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus may also be imperiled,” Jacobs and Pettypiece wrote.
Bloomberg is hardly the only media outlet to question Ryan’s future.
This whole health care debacle ends in a fake NBC boardroom with Trump deciding whether he fires Paul Ryan or Reince Priebus, right?
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) March 23, 2017
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) March 14, 2017
Trump friend Ruddy: "Ryan did major disservice. President had confidence he'd come up with good plan. disappointing” https://t.co/lIPx0YEOMW
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 24, 2017
“House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t just step in it again, big time, on the Ryancare bill this week. The Wisconsin Republican unmasked himself as the man most capable of demolishing his own party and the Trump presidency,” the Washington Times‘ Ralph Hallow wrote late Thursday, calling Ryan’s bill “a piece of moderate GOP trash.”
Hallow wrote that Ryan’s mistakes “will make the president look foolish.”
“Nice going, Mr. Speaker,” Hallow wrote.
Trump himself, according to the Washington Post‘s Robert Costa, does not blame Ryan.
"I don't blame Paul," Trump tells me
— Robert Costa (@costareports) March 24, 2017
President Trump just called me. Still on phone.
"We just pulled it," he tells me.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) March 24, 2017
But for weeks, Ryan promised that the bill had the votes and would pass the House of Representatives without a problem. Last week, he scheduled the vote for Thursday—and guaranteed the president and the public it would pass the House on Thursday.
But that turned out to be an inaccurate and false promise from Ryan to Trump—and to the American public. Now, thanks to a last-minute push from President Trump—who is tired of negotiating—the House was scheduled to vote on Friday on the bill, despite the fact that Ryan still could not deliver the votes. But as Ryan lost significant numbers of Republicans conference-wide ahead the vote, something Ryan finally admitted to Trump at the White House earlier on Friday after misleading for weeks on the level of GOP support for the bill, the bill was pulled at the last possible minute just as the House was scheduled to vote on it.
The GOP members who were asked by Ryan’s leadership team to debate in favor of the deeply unpopular bill on the floor when Ryan knew for a fact the bill did not have the votes were like “lambs led to slaughter,” a House GOP aide told Breitbart News. Ryan will not, multiple aides from many of those offices whose members supported the bill in the floor debate tell Breitbart News, have credibility to ever ask these members to do that again.
Meanwhile, Ryan–through a variety of political action committees affiliated with his leadership PAC–has been targeting Republicans with advertisements on television and radio in their districts. The attack ads notably only hit Republicans, and not Democrats, and are something Ryan explicitly promised he would not do when he ran for Speaker in the wake of Boehner’s resignation. Boehner’s downfall was in large part due to advertisements he ran against his own members.
“This is like a general grabbing a rifle and firing shots at his own troops on base, while the enemy gets stronger outside,” a House Republican hit with Ryan’s attack ads told Breitbart News.
What is more interesting, though, is Ryan seems to have lost control of the House of Representatives. One senior House GOP aide in an office not connected to the Freedom Caucus argued that Meadows—the Freedom Caucus chairman who had been negotiating directly with President Trump in recent days—has emerged as the new House GOP leader. “Meadows is the acting Speaker of the House,” the senior GOP aide in a non-Freedom Caucus office told Breitbart News. “The president now knows on future bills that Ryan cannot deliver the votes in his own conference, and he will have to negotiate directly with the different factions of the House. Ryan has lost the ability to lead the House. He is broken.”
As Breitbart News has previously reported, members have begun discussing this bill as Ryan’s death knell—or at least the beginning of it. Ryan’s inability to maneuver the House of Representatives sufficiently to deliver on his promise to pass this bill has hampered his effectiveness and put at risk future legislation, such as tax reform, as well. Top conservative leaders are demanding that if he does stay on as Speaker—by no means a certainty—he change his ways.
Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government, told Breitbart News:
Swampspin to the contrary, Speaker Ryan’s failure to construct an Obamacare repeal bill that respected the voters who elected a GOP House for the past four election cycles is why it failed to garner the votes needed for passage. This should be an important lesson for the Speaker who all too often has looked to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to bail him out on passing bad ideas into law. It is time that Speaker Ryan work closely with Representative Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus to pass good, limited government legislation, rather than looking longingly across the aisle for votes.
Manning also believes that now that the bill has failed, there is still an opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare with a more open and inclusive legislative process.
“Now, the House needs to get to work to construct a bill around GOP principles that can pass and be sent to the Senate so Majority Leader McConnell can move forward putting together the 51 votes needed for passage,” Manning said. “If the bills differ, there is no reason to panic as this is a return to the healthy, normal legislative process that has largely been shelved for the past few years.”