After the Election: The Fight for Congress

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The nomination of Donald Trump to head the Republican Party resulted from a schism in the GOP. The course of the 2016 presidential election has only served to highlight these cracks. Trump has taken issue positions and made comments with which many within the Republican Party not only disagree but find offensive. Numerous notable Republicans have refused to endorse Donald Trump, even if they still plan to cast their vote for him. Although some have declared they will vote for Hillary Clinton. Some analysts have gone so far as to declare the end of the 2016 election season as the beginning of a GOP civil war. And others have predicted that the Republican Party as currently constituted will cease to exist, instead splitting into at least two distinct political parties.

The most likely scene of this GOP battle is Congress and the House of Representatives. Polarization has not only been increasing between parties but also within parties. While Republicans are united against Democrats, they do not always work in solidarity. The ideological gap between the more moderate Republicans in the House of Representatives and the most conservative wing of the GOP in the House was the highest ever for the modern Republican Party. Many consider the resignation of John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, to have been motivated by a group of dissident, highly conservative Republicans, the Freedom Caucus, who had threatened a no-confidence vote in his speakership.

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Current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, may have a similar future. Although Ryan has made clear he plans to run for speaker, there are those who wish he wouldn’t. Ryan has been under fire for his criticism of Donald Trump, refusing to defend Trump in the wake of his lewd recording, turning his focus to House races instead of campaigning for Trump, and saying he would work with Hillary Clinton. Conversely, Ryan maintained his endorsement of Trump and voted for Trump. Yet this may not be enough for him to garner enough confidence within his own party to win the speaker race. And chatter has grown that instead of facing an unwinnable race, Paul Ryan will instead step down.

Now The Hill has provided more details and greater context on this developing story:

“But even some Ryan allies are conceding that the Speaker now finds himself in an untenable position after just a year on the job.

“It’s not just the usual Freedom Caucus members who are pushing for change at the top; some more mainstream Republicans from safe GOP districts could pull their support over Ryan’s handling of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, lawmakers said.

“The brash New York real estate mogul is enormously popular in many of these districts, but Ryan stopped actively supporting Trump after a recording surfaced of him talking in 2005 about groping and kissing women.

“The lawmaker noted that if the GOP majority shrinks, Ryan could lose next year’s floor vote to remain Speaker with a relatively small number of GOP defections…

“If Trump loses narrowly to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he and his die-hard loyalists will almost certainly try to pin some of the blame on Ryan.

‘“Those who talk to Paul say he is all in to stay Speaker…But if you talk to members from the South, many will struggle to vote for him — even though they like him — because their constituents are furious”‘ over his treatment of Trump…

“GOP sources said Ryan helped himself this week when he announced that he cast an early ballot for Trump.

“But many Republicans are still fuming over a House GOP conference call last month during which Ryan told his colleagues he could no longer defend or campaign with Trump after news outlets published the recording of his lewd comments.

“Trump already took to Twitter to call Ryan a disloyal, “weak and ineffective” leader. On Thursday, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pencerepeatedly declined to say whether he thought his close friend, Ryan, deserved another term as Speaker…

“A Freedom Caucus member predicted that there is “a 25 percent chance Ryan is Speaker in the 115th Congress.”

‘”His unfavorability among Republicans is around 68 percent,”‘ the Freedom Caucus member said of Ryan. ‘”If Hillary wins, he will surely take a good share of the blame among Trump supporters.”‘

In other words, Paul Ryan is under fire for exercising rationality and common sense in his criticism of Donald Trump. Even though Ryan still endorsed Trump. And voted for him. And has been working to secure a GOP majority in the House amidst a Trump campaign which has potentially hurt down-ticket Republican races.

That is to say Paul Ryan may be replaced as Speaker of the House due to his efforts to keep the House united.

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