Tag Archives: speaker of the house

Analysis: The GOP is in chaos, desperately seeking a leader

In the unruly U.S. House, Republicans enjoy a near-historic majority, yet deep divisions between ultra-conservatives and more traditional GOP lawmakers have left them at a loss over who should be in charge. In the Republican presidential primary, experienced governors and senators — long the party’s national leaders-in-waiting — are overshadowed by outsiders like Donald Trump who only seem to get stronger as they challenge the GOP establishment.

Trump even claimed he helped push California Rep. Kevin McCarthy out of the race for House speaker this week, a shocking pullback by a lawmaker seen as the heir apparent.

“They’re giving me a lot of credit for that, because I said you really need somebody very, very tough,” said Trump, the brash billionaire who has led GOP primary polls throughout the summer and fall.

McCarthy was felled by the same factors that led current Speaker John Boehner to announce his resignation: a rebellion among members sent to Washington by voters who believe the party has compromised far too often with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

The challenge now facing Republicans is not only looking for leaders to unite the party’s warring factions, but determining whether finding them is even possible.

For all the talk about ideology, the split among Republicans is often more about tactics. Boehner and McCarthy are both staunchly conservative lawmakers, but members elected in the tea party-era openly question whether they can be trusted to hold the line in budget negotiations and on other matters.

In the House, some Republicans are begging Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to step into the void. Ryan is no more conservative than Boehner — like the outgoing speaker, he has called for immigration reform — but he’s widely respected in the party and seen as one of its intellectual leaders.

“It would be hard for people to confront Paul Ryan and say he’s not a good Republican or he’s not loyal,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said. “He has the stature nobody else has right now.”

Yet it’s telling that Ryan, a budget expert and the GOP’s vice presidential pick in 2012, has so far said he doesn’t want the job. He’s left the clear impression that ascending to speaker in the current political environment would be more detrimental than helpful to his political future, which includes White House ambitions.

Indeed, the next speaker will face a quick test to corral lawmakers who equate compromise with surrender. Congress must lift the nation’s debt limit by early November in order to avoid a default and faces a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a budget and keep the government open.

A protracted fight over either issue would spill into the GOP presidential primary, forcing candidates to pick sides between the House’s small but vocal “hell no” caucus and leaders who warn the party would take the blame for a default or a federal shutdown.

The risk for the party establishment is that those fights could harden support for presidential candidates running as political outsiders, namely Trump as well as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former technology executive Carly Fiorina. Predictions that Trump, and now Carson and Fiorina, would fade in polls have so far proved unfounded, yet few Republican strategists believe any of the three could win the general election.

If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio or another experienced politician does become the GOP nominee, it’s unclear whether the hardliners would fall in line or simply abandon the party on Election Day by not showing up or backing a third-party contender.

For Republicans aghast at the turmoil roiling their party, there’s this to cling to: The GOP’s electoral prospects beyond the White House remain strong. They’re sure to keep control of the House thanks to heavily gerrymandered districts, they have a legitimate shot at holding the Senate, and their prospects are good in several governors’ races.

And while Democrats have demographic advantages in the presidential race, given their strength with Hispanics, blacks and younger Americans, voters may simply prefer a change rather than giving the party a third straight term in the White House.

At least a few Republicans also appear to be clinging to the hope that the current chaos marks the low point for the party, not the start of a deeper descent.

“It’s a rocky, difficult period,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Boehner ally. “But it’s probably a cathartic moment as well.”

Anti-gay former Republican House Speaker allegedly paid hush money to boy he molested

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid hush money to conceal claims that the Illinois Republican sexually a boy decades ago when he was a high school wrestling coach, according to a person familiar with the allegations.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Friday on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and the specific nature of the claims was not immediately clear.

Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative in history, has a strong conservative record, opposing abortion under any circumstances and vehemently against gay rights. Rumors of his relationships with teenage boys during his years as a high school wrestling coach, have circulated in Illinois political circles for decades.

It’s believed that more men will step forward with accusations.

Hastert has been married for 42 years and has two sons. In 1976, he was named Illinois wrestling coach of the year. He attended Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school in suburban Chicago.

A federal indictment accused Hastert of agreeing to pay $3.5 million to keep a person from the suburban Chicago town of Yorkville silent about “prior misconduct,” but the court papers did not detail the wrongdoing.

Sources said the case had nothing to do with public corruption or Hastert’s time in elected office. Instead, the indictment accused Hastert of agreeing to pay the money to a person identified in the document only as “Individual A,” to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” that person.

Legal experts say the fact that federal prosecutors noted Hastert’s tenure in Yorkville in the indictment’s first few sentences strongly suggests some connection between the allegations and his time there as a teacher and coach.

“Notice the teacher and coach language,” said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and head of the Chicago office of the investigation firm Kroll. “Feds don’t put in language like that unless it’s relevant.”

No one has contacted the school district where Hastert worked to report any misconduct involving him, school officials said in a statement.

As speaker, Hastert pushed President George W. Bush’s legislative agenda, helping pass a massive tax cut and expanding federal prescription drug benefits. During those years, he was second in the line for the presidency, after the vice president.

He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker. After leaving Congress, he worked as a lobbyist in Washington.

The indictment charges the 73-year-old with one count of evading bank regulations by withdrawing $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 to skirt reporting requirements. He also is charged with one count of lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual withdrawals.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hastert did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails from the AP seeking comment. He did not appear in public Thursday evening or Friday, and it was not clear if he had an attorney. It’s been reported that he stepped down from his lobbying position due to the allegations.

Prosecutors said Hastert will be ordered to appear for arraignment, but no date had been set.

The indictment said Hastert agreed to the payments after multiple meetings in 2010. “During at least one of the meetings, Individual A and defendant discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier,” and Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to keep it quiet, the indictment said. The indictment suggests he never paid the full amount.

Between 2010 and 2012, Hastert made 15 cash withdrawals of $50,000 from bank accounts and gave cash to Individual A around every six weeks, according to the indictment.

Around April 2012, bank officials began questioning Hastert about the withdrawals. Starting in July of that year, Hastert reduced the amounts he withdrew to less than $10,000 at a time, apparently so they would not run afoul of a regulation designed to stop illicit activity such as money laundering, the indictment said.

Paul Ryan: No hopes to be House Speaker

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan won’t say if he’ll run for president in 2016 but there’s one job he’s sure he doesn’t want: speaker of the House of Representatives.

The 2012 Republican nominee for vice president told an audience in San Antonio recently that running the House would take away too much time from his wife and three young children. Ryan said he would be spending more time with his family if he were vice president than he does as a House member shuttling back and forth between Washington and his home in Janesville, Wis.

“I could’ve decided to go in the elected leadership route years ago. I’m more of a policy person. I prefer spending my days on policy and my weekends at home with my family,” Ryan said. “The speaker is expected to fly all over the country on weekends as well, helping folks. I’m not going to do that.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has filed for re-election and has said he will run for speaker again if Republicans keep control of the House after November’s midterm elections.

For now, Ryan is chairman of the Budget Committee. But it’s widely believed that he’s got his eye on the Ways and Means Committee chairmanship. Current Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., is leaving next year because of GOP rules limiting most chairmen to three terms.

When asked, Ryan said it’s “too early to get into” whether he wants to lead Ways and Means and said he “loves” Rep. Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican whom he would have to leapfrog to lead that power committee. It has sweeping jurisdiction over taxes, trade and health care policy.