Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Photograph by Drew Angerer—Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are feeling the heat.

By Geoff Colvin
March 18, 2016

Like the rest of us, leaders have good days and bad days, only the beta is bigger, as Wall Street traders say – the ups rise higher and the downs plunge lower. Thursday was a bad day for three leaders:

-Mitch McConnell may be putting himself in a corner. The Senate majority leader reiterated his pledge that the Senate would not consider Judge Merrick Garland or any other nominee for the Supreme Court until after the election. That position is starting to look shaky. Many Republicans have expressed admiration of Garland over the years, and most voters think the Senate should hold hearings and vote on his confirmation. At least a few Republican Senators who face credible challengers this year, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have said they’re open to meeting privately with Garland, which McConnell has pointedly refused to do. Things could get worse. If Hillary Clinton is the Dem nominee and looks headed for victory in the fall, a plausible scenario, Republicans may decide they’re better off confirming Garland than leaving the matter to a new president, as they’ve advocated doing on principle. But then they’d look either spineless or unprincipled. Or they could stick to their position and let a President Clinton nominate someone. Not good options.

-At the other end of the Capitol, Paul Ryan’s job is getting even more demanding. He told reporters on Thursday that he believes the Republican convention could very well be contested. As House Speaker, he’s not just the most powerful Republican in government, he’s also the convention’s chairman, a fact he reportedly didn’t know when he reluctantly accepted the Speaker job last fall. And while he has promised to support the party’s nominee, on Thursday he rebuked Donald Trump for the fourth time in the campaign, this time for Trump’s warning that “you’d have riots” if the convention gave the nomination to anyone but him. When asked, Ryan also insisted firmly that he would not accept the nomination if the convention deadlocks. Though didn’t he say something like that last October about becoming Speaker? Ryan is doing an excellent job of remaining statesmanlike and playing the hand he’s been dealt. But this is a lot more than he signed up for.

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-Lula can’t get a break. The former Brazilian president, dutifully identified by U.S. media as Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was detained and questioned by federal police and his home searched a couple of weeks ago in a widening government corruption investigation. State prosecutors charged him with money laundering and asked that he be jailed to prevent his fleeing. Then his protégé, President Dilma Rousseff, offered him a post as a government minister, which just BTW would shield him from prosecution. This past Wednesday, a judge released almost 50 recordings of phone conversations between the two, which arguably confirmed the obvious suspicions and sparked more mass protests. On Thursday, a judge issued an injunction to block Lula’s being sworn in, but he got sworn in anyway. Net, I’d say things are getting worse.

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