When Congress reconvenes after their late summer recess, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is going to have to pass a debt ceiling raise in the House of Representatives… good luck to him.
Throughout the Obama presidency, the House Freedom Caucus—the self-destructively ultra-conservative group of about 40 Tea Partiers who really hate the concept of government—freaked out every time the debt ceiling had to be raised. One popular concession the Freedom Caucus demanded was the total repeal of Obamacare, which, of course, President Obama was never going to accept.
Their obstruction on what used to be a routine legislative vote pre-Obama was a wrench thrown in the cogs of government action, and several times the Freedom Caucus threatened government shut downs. However, that was when Democrats controlled at least one chamber of Congress (until 2015), and still had the executive veto (until January of this year).
Now, Republicans control the entire government, but the Freedom Caucus is still against the idea of rising the debt ceiling. Unfortunately for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, it is now his herculean task to deal with the Tea Partiers, because a failure to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a government shutdown while the GOP is in total control is political suicide. Ryan knows this.
Ryan’s predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner ultimately had to resign because the Freedom Caucus felt so betrayed by Boehner’s efforts to keep the government functioning, and promised that Boehner had lost their votes for the Speakership. Speaker Ryan is now going to have to endure a showdown with the Freedom Caucus, and it is unlikely he will have their support by the end of the debt ceiling hike’s House vote.
The Freedom Caucus has never been too enamored with Speaker Ryan, and threatened to refuse to vote for Ryan as Speaker, which would have forced the GOP to make a deal with Democrats in order to elect Ryan as Speaker. This would have been tantamount to treason in the Freedom Caucus’s eyes, but so will a Ryan-authored debt ceiling raise.
The Republican House majority is slim, and Ryan needs the Freedom Caucus’s votes in order to pass the debt ceiling raise without Democrat votes. If the Freedom Caucus refuses to support the raise, Ryan will need to offer concessions to Democrats in exchange for their votes in order to keep the government from shutting down. This will make the Freedom Caucus hate Ryan even more, so Ryan is effectively in a catch-22.
Any bill that gains the acceptance of the Freedom Caucus will likely be as popular as the failed Obamacare repeal effort, and any deal with Democrats to pass a debt ceiling hike without the Freedom Caucus’s help will earn him the title “Republican-In-Name-Only” and threaten his Speakership.
Good luck, Speaker Ryan.