The gutlessness of Paul Ryan

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik


When it comes to policy, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump have disagreements on key issues like entitlements and trade. Ryan has also denounced Trump’s incendiary rhetoric on numerous occasions, going so far as to call some of his comments the “textbook definition of racism.”

Nonetheless, Ryan wants to have it both ways when it comes to Trump. Ryan may speak out against him, but he has also officially endorsed him.

And now, his position on the GOP nominee has become incoherent.

In the wake of the release on Friday of a 2005 video where Trump is heard bragging about sexually assaulting women, Ryan disinvited Trump from what was to be their first joint campaign appearance the next day in Wisconsin. He released a statement saying he was “sickened” by Trump’s comments while still standing by his endorsement.

Ryan went a step further during a Monday morning news conference with House Republicans, telling members of his caucus that he will no longer defend Trump.

“The speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities,” a Ryan spokesman said, according to numerous reports.

While Ryan’s position effectively concedes the presidency to Hillary Clinton, he didn’t actually rescind his endorsement of Trump.

Instead, he basically told members looking for guidance, ‘You do you.’

So Ryan continues to endorse a candidate whom he disagrees with on key issues, whom he has denounced on numerous occasions, whom he won’t appear with, and whose conduct he finds “sickening.” Why won’t he take the additional step of rescinding his endorsement?

Part of the answer is undoubtedly that Trump, who’s still his party’s nominee, remains popular among a segment of Republicans. For instance, during the Saturday event in Wisconsin where Trump was originally scheduled to appear, Ryan “was booed and heckled by Donald Trump supporters.” And Trump still has his supporters within Ryan’s caucus.

As the New York Times reports with regard to the Monday conference call:

[W]hile he did not say he was withdrawing his endorsement, some of the House members took it that way and angrily attacked him for effectively giving up on Mr. Trump.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a veteran California conservative, was particularly heated, according to House Republicans on the call. About 45 minutes into the call, Mr. Ryan had to come back on the line to clarify that he was not formally rescinding his support from Mr. Trump.

But in the wake of the publication of the shocking hot mic clip, Trump’s support appears to be tanking nationally. Ryan may have reached the conclusion his party has a better chance of retaining its congressional majorities by distancing from Trump.

In the process of trying to have it both ways, however, Ryan has arrived at a position that is even harder to figure out than where Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) was last summer. At the time, Ayotte justified her plan to vote for Trump by making a distinction between “voting” and “endorsing.”

“Everyone gets a vote, I do too,” Ayotte said on CNN in August. “And an endorsement is when you are campaigning with someone.” (Ayotte now says she’ll no longer vote for Trump.)

Ryan, who says he won’t appear with Trump but is still endorsing him, is clearly operating under a different definition of “endorsement” than Ayotte.

Another reason that Ryan may be hesitant to break with Trump once and for all is pragmatic. In the increasingly unlikely event Trump wins the presidency next month, Ryan hopes Trump will help him ram his tax-cutting, entitlement-slashing agenda through Congress. In fact, Ryan outlined his plan to do so under President Trump just last week.

Trump, for his part, predicted that Republicans who distance themselves from him will pay a price on November 8.

And hours after details of Ryan’s Monday morning conference call went public, Trump put him on blast by name.

Republicans’ Congress Lull Could Impede A Clinton Presidency

Republicans’ Congress Lull Could Impede A Clinton Presidency

REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The National Memo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in Congress are planning a light legislative agenda as they return from their long summer break on Tuesday, a strategy some say is designed in part to bog down Hillary Clinton if she becomes president.

It is not uncommon for the Congress to take it slow in an election year and legislative delays could work in Republicans’ favor if their nominee Donald Trump takes the White House in November.

But the strategy will also pay dividends if it is Clinton who takes office on Jan. 20. She will be forced to deal with old baggage rather than focus on her agenda of infrastructure investments and immigration and Wall Street reforms.

“If Hillary wins, we force her to waste time, resources, momentum, early good will and political capital – all on cleanup duty,” said a senior aide to one Republican senator.

If all goes as expected this autumn, a U.S. Supreme Court seat, vacant since Feb. 13, will remain unfilled until sometime next year. A sweeping Pacific free-trade deal negotiated by President Barack Obama will be on hold, if not doomed.

And if many conservative Republicans get their way, government agencies will run on stop-gap funding from Oct. 1 until sometime in February or March. That means that the next president would have to negotiate a longer-term deal or face the prospect of government shutdowns in the early days of a new administration.

Senior congressional aides have told Reuters their agenda for the coming months include bills to keep the government funded, combat the spreading Zika virus and renewing laws guarding the nation’s water resources.

Other items would help the majority Republicans score political points with key constituencies before the November elections, even though they have no chance of becoming law.

These include scolding the Obama administration for a $400 million payment to Iran in January after Tehran released American prisoners, anti-abortion measures and, once again, proposals to repeal Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist and former aide to Republican leaders in Congress, acknowledged that public opinion polling is trending in Clinton’s direction.

If Clinton wins, Bonjean added, “The whole mindset (among Republican leaders in Congress) would shift to taking care of the most important business to help Republicans and unloading the more difficult, tense issues for a Clinton administration to deal with.”

Clinton has maintained a lead in most polls since Republican and Democratic conventions, but some surveys showed that lead narrowing. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sept. 2 showed Trump effectively pulling even with the Democratic nominee.

Yet one veteran Republican congressional aide said more and more Republicans in Congress brace for the White House to stay in Democratic hands for the next four years, even if their party manages to maintain control of Congress.

Trump’s trouble in appealing to important groups of voters, such as Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, and self-inflicted wounds “have made it pretty clear he’s highly unlikely to get there,” he said.

Leaving the Supreme Court nomination and other high-profile disagreements for 2017 “does bog down” a new administration, “no question about it,” the aide said.

Some election years mean a slow autumn in Congress, but this is not always the case. In 2012 for example, lawmakers dramatically labored all the way through New Year’s Eve addressing a “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax and spending laws.

Not all of the delays in passing legislation are purely on Republican shoulders though.

While Trump has blasted free-trade deals, leading Democrats, including Clinton, also have criticized Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership pact that would create a free-trade zone ranging from Japan to Chile.

Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, downplayed the challenges Clinton might face early on. “She knows how to deal with Congress. She’s been there,” he said referring to Clinton’s years as a senator representing New York.

Besides, he added, if Trump loses, Republicans will be busy dealing with their own problems.

“They’ll have to think seriously about how they got themselves in the trouble that they’re in.”

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Julia Edwards and Tomasz Janowski)

Vets In Congress Urge Paul Ryan To Un-Endorse Trump

Jim Bourg / REUTERS


“The profound disrespect Mr. Trump has shown toward Gold Star parents is a new low.”

WASHINGTON ― The fallout over Donald Trump’s attacks on the family of a Muslim American soldier continued Monday as military vets in Congress urged Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to drop his endorsement for his party’s presidential nominee.

“As veterans who previously served on active duty, we are horrified by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s slander of parents whose son died serving our country,” reads a letter to Ryan, signed by Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) and Seth Moulton (Mass.).

“Your continued endorsement of Mr. Trump’s hateful, bigoted and sexist vision threatens the integrity of the House of Representatives in which we serve,” they wrote. “We were heartened by your first instinct, which was not to endorse Mr. Trump. We respectfully request that you follow what we believe your heart is telling you and withdraw your endorsement of him now.”

Their letter comes after last week’s moving speech at the Democratic National Convention by Khizr Khan, who spoke of the heroism of his son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, who was killed in Iraq while protecting his troops. Khizr Khan denounced Trump and his proposed ban on Muslims, asking if the real estate mogul has even read the Constitution. Trump responded by criticizing Khan for saying he has “sacrificed nothing,” claiming Khan “has no right” to say “inaccurate things” in front of millions of people. He also questioned why Khan’s wife Ghazala, who stood by his side during his speech, didn’t speak, suggesting she wasn’t allowed to talk because Islam oppresses women.

That hasn’t gone over well with anyone, including Republicans.

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong declined to say Monday if Ryan would pull his support for Trump over the flap. Instead, she pointed to a statement Ryan issued over the weekend, in which he says Capt. Khan’s sacrifice should be honored but says nothing about Trump himself.

“Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example,” reads Ryan’s statement. “His sacrifice ― and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan ― should always be honored. Period.”

There are dozens of military veterans in Congress, and for those who are Republican, Trump’s latest flap makes it even more difficult for them to stand by their party’s nominee. The Huffington Post reached out to ten GOP lawmakers who served overseas, randomly selected, to see if they still endorse Trump for president ― or if they plan to formally endorse Trump at all. Only a few responded.

“The Congressman has yet to endorse,” said Maura Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

“Rep. Coffman has not endorsed Trump,” said Cinamon Watson, a spokeswoman for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.). “In fact, Rep. Coffman has voiced grave concern about Mr. Trump’s policies and his tone.”

“Of course Hunter is still on board with Trump,” added Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). “But I think this is a real learning lesson for Trump in that he’s got to be more careful when discussing points of such sensitivity. In this case, he should have acknowledged the sacrifice and separated it from the broader policy issue, but he’s still right on the problem related to immigration and I have no doubt that he believes anyone who makes the ultimate sacrifice is the truest of heroes.”

Aides to Republican Reps. Doug Collins (Ga.), Brad Wenstrup (Ohio), Joe Heck (Nev.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Republican Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Bendery

GOP Leadership Thinks Electing Trump Is More Important Than Standing Up To Racism



On Tuesday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered up unambiguous denunciations of Donald Trump’s racist attack on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Latino heritage, with Ryan characterizing Trump’s comments as “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment” and McConnell describing them as “outrageous and unacceptable.”

But in the next breath, both politicians reiterated that they still plan to support Trump. Ryan cited pragmatic reasons. “Do I believe that Hillary Clinton is going to be the answer to solving these problems? I do not. I believe we have more common ground on the policy issues of the day and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than we do with her.”

Along similar lines, McConnell, who as recently as Sunday refused to denounce Trump’s racism, said “the less said about [Trump’s comments] the better. What we ought to be working on is unifying the party and getting ready to try and defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall.”

The implication is that American’s two most powerful office-holding Republicans care less about racism than they do about defeating Hillary Clinton. They’ve labeled Trump’s perspective racist and outrageous, but those concerns are being subordinated to a more pressing concern — electing someone with an R next to their name as president, even if they believe Latino judges have no business presiding over certain cases simply because of their ethnicity.

Leadership’s sentiment was echoed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

In contrast stands remarks made by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in a New York Times report published Tuesday. Graham, who recently seemed to be warming to Trump, characterized Trump’s attack on Curiel as “the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy.”

“If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” Graham added. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Far from denouncing Trump’s remarks, some of his supporters actually appear to be following the attack-the-questioners-as-the-real-racists script Trump outlined during a Monday conference call detailed by Bloomberg.

During an appearance on CNN on Tuesday, Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord accused Speaker Ryan of being the real racist for allegedly embracing “identity politics.”

During the Monday conference call, Trump said to his supporters, “The people asking the questions — those are the racists… I would go at ’em.”


Trump shifts his tone, promises to make party proud

Getty Images


Donald Trump sought to reshape his candidacy on Tuesday night, using a teleprompter to deliver a carefully prepared address that cast the presumptive presidential nominee as a champion for ordinary Americans.

The speech was clearly designed to reassure Republicans worried about the billionaire’s candidacy after his remarks criticizing a federal judge provoked cries of racism within his own party.

“You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall,” Trump said. “We’re going to do it, folks. I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never ever let you down.”

“I will make you proud of your party and your movement,” he added.

The speech was clearly designed to reassure Republicans worried about the billionaire’s candidacy after his remarks criticizing a federal judge provoked cries of racism within his own party.

“You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall,” Trump said. “We’re going to do it, folks. I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never ever let you down.”

“I will make you proud of your party and your movement,” he added.

Trump passed on hot-button issues like his pledge to build a wall along the Southern border, his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, his criticism of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, and declined even to use his preferred nickname for Hillary Clinton – “Crooked Hillary.”

Instead, Trump vowed to work to earn the support of all those who cast ballots for other candidates over the course of the primary.

“To those who voted for someone else in either party, I’ll work hard to earn your support,” Trump said. “I will work very hard to earn that support. To all of those Bernie Sanders supporters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms.”

The remarks come as Trump tries to move past one of the most explosive controversies of a presidential campaign in which he has repeatedly pushed the envelope, particularly on matters related to race and ethnicity.

Trump should have been enjoying a victory lap on the last night of GOP primaries after steamrolling a deep field of Republican contenders and clinching the nomination a full month before Hillary Clinton was able to wrap up the Democratic nomination.

Instead, Trump found found himself under siege from Republicans and Democrats alike for comments he made about an Indiana-born federal judge being biased against him because he’s of Mexican descent.

Top Republican leaders from House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on down have rebuked Trump.

Ryan said that Trump’s remarks are the “textbook definition” of racism, while McConnell demanded the likely GOP standard bearer “get on message.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a fierce Trump critic and former presidential candidate, is urging Republicans who have endorsed Trump to retract their support.

Republicans are also upset that Trump is missing opportunities to go after Democrats for a weak economic recovery and Clinton over an inspector general report that called into question her use of a private email account and server.

Trump tried to get back on message on Tuesday night, saying that he expects build a substantial lead over Clinton in the polls in the coming weeks as he takes aim at the likely Democratic nominee.

“America is getting taken apart piece by piece and auctioned off to the highest bidder,” Trump said. “We’re broke. We owe 19 trillion going quickly to 21 trillion. Our infrastructure is a disaster. Our schools are failing. Crime is rising. People are scared .The last thing we need is Hillary Clinton in the White House or the extension of the Obama disaster.”

Trump said he would give a major speech next week detailing why he believes Clinton is unfit for office.

“The Clintons have turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves,” Trump said. “They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access, selling favors, selling government contracts…secretary Clinton even did all of the work on a totally illegal private server…and the corrupt system is totally protecting her.”

Trump’s speech concluded just moments before Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally in Brooklyn, where she’s expected to claim victory in the Democratic presidential primary.

As eager as Trump was to go after Clinton, Democrats are equally as eager to have their shot at Trump.

Since Trump’s controversy with the federal judge, many Democrats have branded the likely GOP nominee a racist and a bigot and sought to tie him to down-ballot Republican running for reelection, particularly in the Senate, where the GOP is playing defense as it seeks to protect a fragile majority.

By Jonathan Easley

‘Small Government’ Republicans Want To Control D.C.’s Budget

‘Small Government’ Republicans Want To Control D.C.’s Budget

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) | REUTERS/Joshua Roberts


The House passed legislation Wednesday afternoon gutting a local ballot measure that would give Washington, D.C. more control over its finances. The vote took place on partisan lines, with Republicans voting for the measure and Democrats voting against it.

“The current D.C. government needs to be reined in,” said House Majority Leader Paul Ryan in a statement highlighting Republican arguments in support of the bill. “We will not allow Congress and the Constitution to be undermined.

“Congress has ultimate authority over the District,” he said, “and efforts to undermine this authority are in violation of the Constitution. There are real consequences.”

Lawmakers had voted 240-179 in favor of a bill that would prevent the District from spending tax dollars without congressional approval. The vote is the latest in a campaign that started in 2012 to give residents of D.C. greater autonomy in how to spend the city’s money, and is part of an effort by Republican congressmen to prevent the District from using local or federal cash to fund abortions or marijuana decriminalization (pot was legalized late last year in D.C.).

While the Republican-controlled Congress says it’s only reining in unconstitutional excesses, D.C.’s non-voting Congressional representative Eleanor Holmes Norton was understandably angered by legislation that nullified the 2012 Budget Autonomy Act, a ballot initiative aimed at giving more power to local government.

“It is profoundly undemocratic for any member of Congress in the 21st century to declare that he has authority over any jurisdiction except his own,” she said during a debate on the House floor.

But House Republicans have argued that the ballot initiative was a clear violation of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, a law passed in 1973 which devolved certain powers, like being able to elect a mayor and city council. But all laws passed by the District’s government had to be reviewed and approved by Congress before being signed into law, including yearly budget plans, hence the Republican bill aimed at overturning the Budget Autonomy Act.

President Obama has said he would veto any legislation that barred D.C. from following through on the overwhelming support the 2012 ballot initiative received from the city’s residents.

“The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 5233, which would repeal the District of Columbia’s Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act of 2012,” read a statement of administrative policy sent out yesterday. “The Administration strongly supports home rule for the District and the President has long called for authority allowing the District to spend its own local taxes and other non-Federal funds without congressional approval … If the President were presented with H.R. 5233, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

Prior to the vote, city officials had said they were planning to not submit their budget to Congress, as per the stipulations of the Budget Autonomy Act. Should Paul Ryan have his way, D.C. would be forced to submit its budget for approval, possibly at the cost of programs popular with residents of the District, including providing local funding for abortion access for Medicaid-eligible women, and establishing a regulatory framework for legal marijuana sales.

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts


Cruz floats restarting campaign if he wins Nebraska primary

From The Smoke-filled Room


Ted Cruz floated the possibility of restarting his presidential campaign if he wins Nebraska’s GOP primary on Tuesday and avoided saying whether he supports Donald Trump‘s bid for president.
Cruz, who suspended his White House run last week, said he does not expect to win Nebraska’s primary but is leaving the door open.
“We launched this campaign intending to win. The reason we suspended our campaign was that with the Indiana loss, I felt there was no path to victory,” he said Tuesday on conservative host Glenn Beck’s radio program.
“If that changes, we will certainly respond accordingly.”
Cruz demurred on supporting Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, because the Republican National Convention and general election are still months away.
“This is a choice every voter is going to have to make. I would note, it’s not a choice we as voters have to make today,” Cruz said when asked about supporting Trump.
He also brushed aside the prospects of a convention fight or third-party presidential bid.
Cruz and allies told supporters Monday night call that they would not try to block Trump’s nomination but instead focus on influencing the party’s platform and rules, according to Politico.
Cruz joins a number of prominent Republicans who have said they are not yet supporting Trump for president.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former GOP presidential nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain have all decided not to attend the party’s convention in July, an apparent rebuke of Trump.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last week he was not ready to endorse Trump, adding he needed assurances that Trump would champion conservative ideas.

Cruz dropped out of the presidential race last week after losing big in Indiana’s primary. John Kasich dropped out a day later, clearing the way for Trump to become the presumptive nominee.

Cruz had hoped a win in Indiana could give him momentum into Tuesday’s Nebraska contest, but Trump emerged from the Hoosier State as the only candidate with a viable path forward.

Palin: Paul Ryan’s going down

Sarah Palin

CNN Screenshot


So $arah Palin, the half-term, half-brained former governor of Alaska, went on CNN to say that House Speaker Paul Ryan is toast for not backing GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

I’m sure the House speaker is quaking in his running shoes.

“I think Paul Ryan is soon to be Cantored,” the Wasilla Hillbilly told Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union, trying to give the impression that she was “in the know” by using former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s name as a verb.

“His political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people, and as the leader of the GOP, the convention, certainly he is to remain neutral, and for him to already come out and say who he will not support is not a wise decision of his,” she said in Palin-speak.

Palin promises to work for Ryan primary opponent, Paul Nehlen, although she hasn’t bothered to tell him yet. Nehlen has endorsed Trump. (I didn’t realize it, but Wisconsin has its state primary in August, even though the presidential primary is over.) Perhaps someone should remind Caribou Barbie that Trump lost Wisconsin.

So she’s still looking for ways to remain relevant, and apparently the media are willing to give her those platforms.

Sher Watts Spooner

Search is on for a third-party candidate to take down Trump

Getty Images


Conservative activists who want a third-party alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clintonface one big obstacle: finding the right candidate.

Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) would be a unifying figure for conservatives, but his health is in question after a battle with cancer.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who helped kick off the push for a third-party pro-Constitution candidate in February, has taken himself out of the running, citing obligations to his family.

“The answer is no. Senator Sasse has been clear when asked this before: he has three little kids and the only callings he wants — raising them and serving Nebraskans,” said his spokesman James Wegmann.

The names of Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) had both been mentioned, but they removed themselves from consideration by announcing they will support Trump.

Two other potential candidates — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is expected to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president later this year — are non-starters with the conservatives who are involved in discussions about a third-party candidate.

Erick Erickson, the conservative writer and radio host who has organized conference calls about a Trump alternative, said the movement wants a new face, which is not Romney.

“His name has been floated by three separate groups and all of them came to the conclusion that a new face was needed,” he said.

But Erickson added, “I do think it’s possible” for conservatives to rally behind someone.

“Given the antipathy for Trump and Hillary [Clinton], you could put together a compelling ticket that would unite conservatives and the more establishment Republicans and probably pick up some independents along the way,” he said.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rocked Republican circles on Thursday afternoon when he announced he will not back Trump, at least for now, giving conservatives valuable time to field another option.

Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who both ran against for president, said this week there’s no chance they will vote for Trump, adding to the growing chorus of holdouts within the party establishment.

Romney allies interviewed by The Hill said they are frustrated by the choices before them, but aren’t pushing for him to enter the race.

They believe a third-party or independent bid would be a near impossible for anyone to pull off, and don’t want to see Romney drained of all his political capital over a doomed effort in which he might be blamed for handing the election over to Clinton.

“I don’t want to see him get in unless there was a chance he could win,” one former Romney adviser said. “There’s enormous dissatisfaction with both major party candidates, but it’s too steep a climb. Is there an opening? Sure. Is it realistic? I don’t think so.”

Other conservatives say Johnson, an early advocate of legalizing marijuana who told The Daily Caller he consumed cannabis within the last several weeks, “is a bridge too far to cross.”

Many establishment Republicans and conservatives view Johnson as a fringe figure.

“He might be an outlet for some protest votes, but if your concern with Donald Trump is that he’s not presidential enough, I’m not sure why Gary Johnson would be your guy,” said Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

“I don’t think Gary Johnson was discussed more than three seconds,” said Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, a spokeswoman for the conservatives looking for a Trump alternative.

“The question is, ‘What are our options?’ and that is what is still being discussed and that takes hours and hours and hours,” DeMoss Fonseca added. “We’re working with different groups of people that have different expertise.”

Organizers of the third-party, conservative push estimate it will cost at least $250 million to fund a candidate, and possibly tens or hundreds of millions of dollars more.

The other challenge is navigating the complex rules for getting a presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

The fundraising and ballot requirements are two major reasons why former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has presidential ambitions and billions of dollars in personal wealth, thought he needed to make a decision about running for the White House by the end of March. He ultimately passed on it.

Conservatives involved in the search for a Trump alternative describe their discussions as decentralized, with various groups holding conference calls and conducting fact-finding missions.

In addition to Erickson and DeMoss Fonseca, other participants include Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Wichterman, a former aide for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) who is well-connected among social conservatives, and Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and longtime activist.

They hope that Paul Singer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who helped bankroll the “Never Trump” campaign before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped out of the presidential race, can be enticed to back a third-party option in the fall. Calls and e-mails to Singer’s office were not returned.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have funded other conservative causes, are viewed as another potential source of the money. But it will take some cajoling to get them on board.

James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, the umbrella political group funded by the Kochs, told The Hill that it’s not considering supporting a third-party candidate.

David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party’s ticket in 1980, which received only 1 percent of the vote.

“There’s a lot of activity between us and a lot of phone calls and emails about who to contact. We’re still reaching out to financial people as well as to people to see if there’s a widespread for a third candidate,” said DeMoss Fonseca. “Six months ago all of us would have said, ‘That’s silly, that’s ridiculous.’

“We want to do something that’s effective and credible,” she added. “For the first time in our lifetimes there are a lot of people and a lot of big Republicans are saying, ‘We can do this but is it too late? Is there still a pathway?’ ”

But other Republican voices in the Never Trump movement are beginning to doubt the viability of a third candidate.

Operatives from the two leading anti-Trump super-PACs did not participate in the recent conference calls.

Katie Packer, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney who runs the main anti-Trump group, Our Principles PAC, said her group is turning its focus from the presidential race to protecting GOP majorities in the House and the Senate.

“Looking at the data, we’re very worried about incumbent Republicans getting caught up in a flood,” she said. “The first thing we’re looking at is what can be done for down-ballot Republicans. We don’t have any plans to actively oppose Trump in the general election … but we continue to believe he’s terrible for the party, the country, and especially down-ballot Republicans, so we’re looking for opportunities to help them.”

An operative for the Never Trump PAC, a smaller group that has so far focused primarily on digital ad buys, told The Hill they’re also not engaging in the effort to recruit an alternative, but said they might get on board if the right candidate materializes.

By Alexander Bolton and Jonathan Easley

Ten public policy issues that divide Trump and Ryan

By Scott Wong and Mike Lillis | The Hill



House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stirred a political firestorm on Thursday when he refused to endorse Donald Trump, the all-but-certain GOP presidential nominee.

It was, perhaps, not such a surprise.

While Ryan and Trump may belong to the same party, they don’t agree on much when it comes to the Grand Old Party’s guiding policy agenda.

From immigration and trade to Medicare and taxes, Trump and Ryan have been on opposite sides of many of the highest-profile issues underlying the year’s campaign debate.

And Ryan, who took over the Speaker’s gavel last year with designs of uniting his sharply divided party, said he’s simply not convinced the Manhattan billionaire possesses the conservative bona fides needed to lead the GOP into the future.

“Of course you’re going to have policy disagreements. You always have policy disagreements,” Ryan said in an interview with CNN this week. “But are we putting out policies based upon the principles that all conservative and all Republicans share? You know, limited government, the Constitution, the right role for the executive?

“Those are the things that we all believe in, and we want to make sure our standard-bearer bears those standards, that our standard-bearer champions those.”

Amid the tension, the two plan to huddle on Capitol Hill on Thursday. But it’s unlikely they’ll see eye to eye.

“I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda,” Trump said in response to the Speaker’s take-down.

Here’s The Hill’s look at 10 policy issues where Trump and Ryan are butting heads.

1. Ban on Muslims

In the wake of the terrorist attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., Trump last December called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. — an extreme measure that sparked worry among many party elders.

The very next morning, Ryan, just six weeks on the job as Speaker, rebuked Trump for the first time in the campaign cycle. Trump’s Muslim ban, Ryan said, was discriminatory and violated the freedom of religion, not to mention other aspects of the Constitution.

“This is not conservatism,” the Speaker said, standing in Republican National Committee headquarters. “What was proposed … is not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.”

This week, after solidifying his spot as the party’s presumptive nominee with a win in Indiana, Trump doubled down on his Muslim ban pledge, effectively ignoring Ryan’s warning.

“I don’t care if it hurts me,” he said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.

A day later, Ryan fired back by withholding his endorsement.

2. Raising taxes on the wealthy

When it comes to the issue of taxes, Trump has been all over the map. But he recently told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie he absolutely supports raising taxes on the wealthy.

“I do. I do — including myself. I do,” Trump replied, giving heartburn to many traditional anti-tax Republicans including Ryan.

A former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Ryan has been championing major tax reform that would cut taxes — not raise them — for families and corporations across the board.

“The last thing our country needs are tax increases,” reads the tax issues page on Ryan’s website.

3. Trade issues

Ryan and Trump are worlds apart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a colossal deal Obama negotiated with 11 Pacific-rim nations that could affect as much as 40 percent of the global economy.

Ryan is a big supporter of an agreement, having helped write the “fast-track” bill to ease eventual passage of the TPP, then ushering fast-track through the House last year.

Ryan also penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – Trump’s main rival who dropped out after Tuesday’s Indiana primary — calling the TPP a “historic” opportunity to help American businesses. On Thursday, he released a statement hailing the merits of expanding international trade.

“It is especially good for our small businesses, which need new markets for their products,” Ryan said. “If we don’t step up and seize these opportunities, our competitors will.”

Trump has a decidedly different view, and his fierce opposition to expanded trade has helped boost his appeal among independents and conservative Democrats, particularly in Rust-Belt states.

He refers to the TPP as “ObamaTrade,” and he’s vowing to kill it because he says it will only exacerbate America’s trade deficit with China.

“The TPP is horrible deal. It is a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble,” he said during aNovember debate. “It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.”

4. Easing restrictions with Cuba

Once a Cuba hard-liner, Trump said last fall that Obama’s monumental decision to re-establish diplomatic and economic ties with the communist island-nation of Cuba was “fine.”

“Fifty years is enough — the concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” Trump said in an interview withThe Daily Caller, breaking with nearly all of his GOP presidential rivals. “I think we should have made a stronger deal.”

Ryan, too, has flipped-flopped on Cuba policy. Early in his political career, he had backed ending the trade embargo with Cuba. But as Speaker, Ryan has been a vocal critic of Obama’s move, calling Cuba “a regime that provides safe harbor to terrorists and fugitives.”

As the president made his historic trip to Cuba in March, Ryan ripped Obama, saying “he effectively gets nothing in return, and he legitimizes a tyrannical dictatorship” led by the Castro brothers.

5. Planned Parenthood

Ryan has been at the front of the Republicans’ long-running effort to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood, and Trump says he would do the same.

But Trump, who previously supported broad abortion rights, has also gone out of his way to trumpet the importance of the group in offering other healthcare services — “cervical cancer, breast cancer,” he said at a debate in February — while warning that countless women would lose vital care if Planned Parenthood were to fold.

“You can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly,” Trump said.

That’s a rare message from a Republican, and one you won’t likely hear from the Speaker. Indeed, he’s backing the Republicans’ special panel investigating charges that Planned Parenthood profited illegally from the sale of fetal tissue.

“We are moving on Planned Parenthood on multiple fronts,” he vowed in November.

6. Immigration

Trump set a fierce tone for his immigration agenda on Day One, using his inaugural campaign speech to characterize Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.”

He hasn’t backed down since, vowing to deport all of the 11 million immigrants estimated to be living in the country illegally, while sealing the border with an enormous wall — at the expense of Mexico — to be designed within his first 100 days in office.

“We have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside. They go, if I get elected,” he said during a September debate on CNN.

Ryan has different ideas. The Speaker was groomed by Republican immigration reformers — including the late-Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) — and has a long history of backing bills granting some illegal immigrants legal status, which harder-line conservatives deem “amnesty.”

Ryan supported the Republicans’ push to move an immigration package in 2014, including legalization allowances, and was leading bipartisan negotiations with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in search of a compromise later that year — talks that fell apart with the defeat of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

“I’m a person who believes that for the undocumented, we have to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve mass deportation, that involves people the opportunity to get right with the law, to come in and earn a legal status while we fix the rest of legal immigration,” Ryan said last week at Georgetown University.

The issue is a tough one for GOP leaders like Ryan, caught straddling a line between efforts to appease a conservative base that favors tough enforcement, while hoping not to alienate Hispanic voters that could be vital in a number of battleground states.

7. Minimum wage

In November, Trump said the current $7.25-an-hour minimum wage is too high and was slowing job growth.

But part of Trump’s pivot to the general election has included softening his opposition to raising the minimum wage.

“I’m looking at that. I’m very different from most Republicans,” Trump said this week on CNN when asked about a Democratic push to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“You have to have something you can live on,” he said, adding that he’s more focused on getting people better paying jobs.

By contrast, Ryan and most Republicans have been consistently opposed to any sort of minimum wage increase. A day after President Obama appeared in Milwaukee in 2014 and called for hiking the minimum, Ryan countered in a speech that such a move would result in a half million job losses.

Low-wage jobs provide critical training for young people, giving them an entry point into the workforce, Ryan said, according to The Milwaukee Business Journal. The Speaker famously flipped burgers at McDonald’s when he was younger.

8. Eminent domain

On the question of how much power the government has to commandeer private property for public gain, Ryan and Trump couldn’t be further apart.

Ryan has a long record opposing such expropriations, and he cosponsored legislation fighting a 2005 Supreme Court decision that empowered officials in New London, Conn., to seize private land — and sell it to a private corporation — in the name of economic development.

“When someone works years to secure a home or establish a successful family store or restaurant, only to be forced by the government to give it up so a corporation can redevelop the land, that’s wrong,” Ryan said at the time. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and this means protecting citizens’ right to own private property and prevent government from abusing its power.”

Trump disagrees. The billionaire real estate mogul has used eminent domain to his business advantage, arguing that it’s a “wonderful” tool for moving big projects — public and private — that might otherwise be “blocked by a hold-out” property owner.

“If you have a road or highway, you gotta do it,” he told Fox News in October. “If you have a factory where you have thousands of jobs, and you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development.”

9. Social Security

Ryan built his wonky reputation as chairman of the House Budget Committee, where his annual budget bills featured efforts to reduce deficit spending with steep cuts to the big entitlement programs.

His early “Roadmap for America” plans, for instance, proposed to raise Social Security’s eligibility age, shift retirement funds into private individual accounts and lower benefits for high-income seniors.

And as the vice presidential candidate alongside Mitt Romney in 2012, he offered a similar plan.

“If we don’t shore up Social Security, when we run out of the IOUs, when the program goes bankrupt, a 25 percent across-the-board benefit cut kicks in on current seniors in the middle of their retirement,” Ryan said in 2012 when he was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate. “We’re going to stop that from happening.”

Trump rejects any plan to cut entitlement benefits, going so far as to blame Romney’s loss on his decision to pick as running mate the man best known for his austere budgets.

“I said, ‘You got to be kidding,'” Trump said on the campaign trail in February. “He [Ryan] represented cutting entitlements, etcetera, etcetera. The only one that’s not going to cut is me.”

10. Medicare drug negotiations

A major health policy difference between Ryan and Trump pertains to Medicare’s prescription drug programs.

Under current law, Medicare is barred from negotiating directly with drug companies to get lower prices. Trump thinks that’s a mistake, arguing that the government could reap hundreds of billions of dollars in savings by purchasing drugs in bulk directly through the companies — a position long-held by liberal Democrats.

“We don’t do it. Why? Because of the drug companies,” Trump said on the campaign trail in January.

Most Republicans oppose such a move, arguing that it grants too much power to the federal government while encroaching on free markets. Medicare’s drug programs are doing just fine, they say, as a result of private competition.

Ryan is in that camp, joining most Republicans in voting against a drug negotiation bill in 2007.

The Hill