Refusing to back presumptive GOP nominee real estate tycoon Donald Trump, 46-year-old House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to endorse Trump or step down. Ryan’s turned the House Speaker into a petty political job, pushing Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) right wing Freedom Caucus, the same group that approved his appointment to House Speaker Oct. 29, 2015. Formed in 2015 from what was left of the unofficial Tea Party, Jordan’s 41-member Caucus vociferously pushes fiscal and social conservatism and right-wing populism. Ryan’s refusal to endorse Trump based on his adherence to Jordan’s Freedom Caucus breaches all known principles as House Speaker: To speak for the House’s 435-member caucus. Ryan’s refusal to back Trump shows his confusion in his role as House Speaker, not part of a small right-wing faction pushing a narrow political agenda.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al.) openly condemned Ryan’s grandstanding on Trump, urging the House Speaker to get his act together. “He needs to do that [endorse Trump],” Sessions told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. “We don’t need to continue having the Speaker hanging out there, in my opinion,” said Sessions. When you consider Trump’s won most of the congressional districts represented by the 41-member Freedom Caucus, proving, if nothing else, that Freedom Caucus zealots don’t care what GOP primary voters think, including in their own constituents. When Ryan stunned the GOP establishment May 6, only three days after Trump’s landslide victory in Indiana, refusing to endorse his Party’s presumptive nominee, the GOP groaned. “I hope to support our nominee. I hope to support his candidacy fully,” said Ryan. “At this point, I’m just not there right now,” Ryan said.
Three weeks later, Ryan’s offered no endorsement, only vague platitudes about Trump not backing the Freedom caucus agenda. Trump made clear that his agenda is about the millions of GOP primary voters that have backed his political agenda. “I’m not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement what is best for the American people,” said Trump, putting Ryan on notice that his GOP nomination isn’t about Ryan’s narrow conservative agenda. Ryan’s unwillingness to back the peoples’ choice as defined by GOP primary voters disqualifies him for continuing as House Speaker. Meeting with Trump on Capitol Hill May 12, Ryan continues to equivocate. “This is our first meeting. I was very encouraged by the meeting, but this is our first meeting. It takes some time. You don’t put in together in 45 minutes,” said Ryan.
GOP officials don’t want to rock the boat before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland July 18-21. With six weeks to go, it’s better for the Party to get Ryan’s endorsement now or have him step down as titular head of the convention. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus needs to enlist the help of key Senate and House Republicans and put Ryan on notice to either endorse the GOP presumptive nominee or step down as House Speaker. Ryan’s acted so inappropriately following Trump’s big Indiana win that it can no longer be tolerated. Party officials were dumbfounded that the House Speaker wouldn’t automatically endorse his Party’s presumptive nominee. Playing around for nearly a month, the GOP needs to give Ryan the ultimatum well-before the GOP convention. If he can’t, for whatever reason, endorse Trump, they it’s time to step down.
Listening to Ryan explain his feeble reasons for not endorsing Trump shows how far the GOP’s been hijacked by right wing zealots. Forty-one members of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus can’t call the shots for the other 394 members of the House. Ryan’s job as House Speaker is to advance legislation for the entire House, not the 41-member Freedom Caucus. Before the June 7 primaries, including California, Ryan needs to jump all-in with Trump or submit his resignation. With a May 11 Reuters/Ipsos poll showing Democratic presumptive nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton running closely with Trump in key battleground states, Trump needs all the help he can get from the GOP. Letting Ryan sit on the fence hurts Trump’s chances in the Fall. If Ryan can’t, for whatever reason, endorse Trump, he needs to do the right thing for his Party: Step down.
Ryan’s role as House Speaker is to back his Party’s nominee, not draw more attention to himself by sitting on the fence. Whether Ryan’s heart lies to the Freedom Caucus or not, it’s inappropriate to turn the House Speaker into pure politics. Ryan’s personal views on fiscal or social conservatism have no place in withholding political endorsements, especially if they mirror the vast majority of GOP primary voters. Trump’s been more than patient looking for Ryan’s endorsement. Endorsing Trump represents backing of GOP primary voters that overwhelmingly voted for Trump’s agenda. If Ryan represents only the Freedom Caucus agenda, he can’t serve responsibly the majority House constituency. Instead imposing his right wing agenda on Trump, Ryan should fully endorse the will of GOP’s primary voters or step down immediately as House Speaker.