Rep. Paul Ryan, who almost surely will be elected House speaker on Thursday, has pledged to unify the Republican Party. We wish he’d offer to help to bridge gaps within the nation as well.
Ryan, who is intelligent, conservative and skilled in the ways of Washington, will preside over the People’s House, which reflects our divided people, not only the 246 other House Republicans. Difficult though it will be, especially in a presidential election year, Ryan should lead on issues that matter beyond the Beltway and aren’t intended merely to win the 24-hour news cycle.
Ryan’s supporters hope he will offer an intellectual basis for conservatism, something Republicans long since ceded to talk-show entrepreneurs and hacks who pass themselves off as deep thinkers while benefiting from their organizations’ tax-exempt status.
To this end, Ryan should remember his late mentor, Rep. Jack Kemp. Although he was champion of supply-side economics and ever deeper tax cuts, Kemp sought to help the least fortunate among us. Some of his ideas worked and some didn’t. But at least he tried. Ryan should seek to do the same.
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Ryan had said he was hesitant to accept the job because its duties would rob him of family time. We like that the person who is two heartbeats away from the presidency has young children. Lucky for him, he has a big salary and large staff to help him accommodate his wishes.
We hope he finds ways to help working moms and dads by pushing for paid family leave and pay equity, and by reducing interest rates on student loans and forgiving debt for graduates willing to give back through service.
Our nation of immigrants needs an overhaul of outdated immigration laws, even though Ryan’s native Wisconsin is less affected by immigration than California and the Southwest.
To accomplish change, Ryan should end the so-called Hastert Rule. Named for former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who held the post from 1995 to 1999, the rule requires that a majority of the majority agree on legislation before it is brought to the floor.
The rule, which is favored by the most conservative members of the Republican conference, freezes Democrats out. It also ensures that little of any consequence will occur, since Democrats hold enough seats in the Senate to block most legislation.
We hope, too, that Ryan curbs the angry impulses of Freedom Caucus members, who seem bent on conducting endless investigations into Benghazi and Planned Parenthood, and are now attempting to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner bequeathed Ryan the gift of time by compromising on the budget deal with President Barack Obama. Boehner also moved with Republicans and Democrats to restore funding for the Export-Import Bank, an important element of trade policy but one that raised conservatives’ ire.
We hope Ryan uses that time wisely. His tenure will be judged not on his ability to unify his conference, but on the policies he helps develop and whether he does more than seek to score cheap political points.