Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Fresh starts should stoke optimism. Even a hardened skeptic can allow that much. So in keeping with the uncharacteristic if qualified hopefulness that’s run through the past couple Saturday dispatches, we give you the case for why things could really, actually, finally be different in the House under newly-minted Speaker Paul Ryan. One veteran House GOP lawmaker, himself no pollyanna, points to some qualities that make Ryan singularly suited to the moment. In a Friday background briefing on Capitol Hill, he ticked off three in particular:
- A national profile. As Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, Ryan was half of a ticket that won nearly 61 million votes nationwide. “I don’t think there’s another time in American history when somebody becomes Speaker who millions of people have already voted for and know in a way that most legislative people are never known. He’s a national political figure outside of and in addition to the institution.” That gives Ryan political leverage with recalcitrant members of his own conference never enjoyed by John Boehner, the consummate insider he’s replacing.
- Legislative chops. Despite his youth — at 45, Ryan is the youngest Speaker in nearly 150 years — he calls on a rare depth of experience in the chamber: He started there as a staffer right out of college and was elected to the first of his nine terms at 28. More crucially, his background is as a legislator, having chaired two key committees. In that, he’s unlike Boehner’s two previous would-be successors, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, both of whom vaulted into leadership in their second terms on the strength of their political fundraising. If your only experience is in leadership, “you’re mostly thinking about competition with Democrats, either electorally or legislatively,” the lawmaker said. “Most members don’t live in that world. Most members live in the world of their committee.” And Ryan, an ideologue who nonetheless has built a track record of working across the aisle, has pledged to return legislative agency to the committees — a move that should encourage his disaffected fringe to rejoin the process.
- Moral authority. “He didn’t want the damn job in the first place and everybody knows it.” That doesn’t mean he can count on everyone in his ranks to help, “but they’ll at least feel bad about not helping for a change.”
There are a thousand ways this could go sideways. The first test will come in early December, when Ryan needs to shepherd an omnibus spending package to keep the government funded. The task should be eased by the two-year budget framework Boehner helped engineer this week on his way out. No doubt for House Republicans, and the party more broadly, the route back toward a coherent governing vision — and the cohesion to execute it — remains long and jagged. This is only a start; it appears to be the right one.
• Trump tones it down as he fights to stay on top
As he battles to maintain his position atop the polls he’s lead for months, Donald Trump is showcasing a different and somewhat unfamiliar persona on the stump. Gone are the boasts about his lead and the schoolyard taunts to his rivals. In their place: a new magnanimity toward fellow candidates and a more earnest attempt to connect with his audience. The tweaks only go so far — this is still Trump, after all. But the effort to accommodate the pressures of a campaign evolving as it heads into the critical stretch speak to the billionaire developer’s seriousness about his bid. Washington Post
• The RNC cancels an NBC debate
The Republican National Committee, enraged by what they viewed as an biased performance by CNBC in moderating the third GOP presidential debate on Thursday, announced Friday that the party is suspending an agreement with NBC to stage another debate in February. RNC chief Reince Preibus wrote to NBC News head Andy Lack that the financial network’s even was “conducted in bad faith.” That might be a bit of misdirection by the RNC. Frustration with the RNC itself has been mounting among Republican presidential campaigns, who believe it’s done an inadequate job setting the terms of the debates with networks. Officials from a number of them were set to meet this weekend to discuss a plan to end-run the party. Fortune
• Paul Singer throws his support behind Rubio
Capitalizing on a dominating performance in the third Republican debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday picked up the endorsement of New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer. On top of the financial muscle Singer will lend to Rubio’s campaign, the support will likely accelerate the candidate’s effort to close establishment ranks around his bid while denying his former mentor, Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor and onetime GOP frontrunner had vigorously courted Singer’s support, as had New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another erstwhile establishment favorite. Singer, the most generous Republican donor in the country last year, is also expected now to rally his broad and deep-pocketed network to Rubio’s cause. New York Times
• Jeb ends a no-good, very bad week with a high level shakeup
The hits keep coming in Jeb! World. After a disastrous performance at the third Republican debate on Wednesday night, the one-time GOP frontrunner’s campaign is in something of a tailspin. Donors are defecting, endorsers are eyeing the exits, and his staff shakeup continues. The latest: Christine Ciccone, the Bush campaign’s chief operating officer, is out, as of Friday afternoon. The news comes a week after the campaign announced it was slashing payrolls by 40% in an attempt to control costs in the face of leaner fundraising. Wall Street Journal
Around the Water Cooler
• Hillary demonstrates how to destroy millions in stock value with a single tweet
Hillary Clinton has markets hanging on her every word. And not just the political markets, either. Following a Friday speech on criminal justice reform, the Democratic presidential frontrunner tweeted about the need to end the system of outsourcing incarceration to “unaccountable corporations.” Corrections Corp. of America, the nation’s largest private prison operator, saw its stock tumble 6 percent as a result, wiping away nearly $200 million in value. It’s the second time this month Clinton rattled stocks with a tweet — earlier, biotechs took a hit when the candidate called for stricter oversight of the sector in the wake of the dustup over drug pricing by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Bloomberg
• How a still-broken Washington hatched the budget deal
The two-year budget framework that Congressional leaders forged with President Obama this week was hatched, it turns out, out of desperation. Congressional Republican chiefs told the president they would not be able to find the support in their own ranks to hike a fast-approaching debt limit. The president offered a high-stakes out: Fold a debt ceiling hike into a bigger budget package, or pitch the country into default. The ultimatum offered the push that GOP leaders needed, and the deal, which extends the federal governments borrowing authority all the way into March 2017, materialized rapidly. Politico