According to Gallup, only 14 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Does the problem lie within the issues or the process?
More than half (59 percent) say it's due to ineffectiveness/partisan gridlock, the pollster says. Only 19 percent cite policy issues. Congress' job is to legislate, not to pontificate—at least in the House.
The leadership change in the GOP-controlled House provides a slight glimmer of hope for improving the process and getting things done, if the Republicans decide that getting things done matters.
Almost four weeks ago, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that he would be stepping down. Soon after, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced that he would be running for speaker. Almost two weeks later, on Oct. 8, McCarthy unexpectedly dropped out of the race for speaker. This past Tuesday evening, Paul Ryan, a Republican representative from Wisconsin and current chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, met with the GOP conference to talk about his possible speakership.
To put all this in context, the speaker of the House is voted on by the entire House of Representatives. In all, 218 of its 435 members would have to vote for Ryan for him to serve as speaker. There are currently 247 Republicans in the House. Ryan, who is reluctant to take on the speakership, outlined Tuesday night what he and anyone else seeking to succeed as speaker would need to do.
To lead effectively, you cannot be arguing internally within your party every day. This requires an emphasis on negotiation over policy, which is a much different kind of task from what Ryan was doing as committee chair. The speaker focuses on process, on making the House of Representatives work as an institution.
Ryan understands that the Republican conference has to make the decision on whether or not they want to make the House work. Hopefully, they will decide to work together and make progress to get things done.
As Ryan stated in his Tuesday night press release, "Tonight, I shared with my colleagues what I think it will take to have a unified conference and for the next speaker to be successful. ... First, we need to move from being an opposition party to a proposition party. Because we think the nation is on the wrong path, we have a duty to show the right one. Our next speaker needs to be a visionary one."
Without vision, the people parish—and a vision that unifies and is optimistic can provide the energy and enthusiasm to not only retain the House and Senate, but win the presidency as well.
"Second, we need to update our House rules so that everyone can be a more effective representative. This is, after all, the people's house. But we need to do it as a team. And it needs to include fixes that ensure we don't experience constant leadership challenges and crisis."
Translated, Ryan has no interest in being speaker if every day, several times a day, fellow Republicans are going to call for him to step down. Remember, if he does win the speakership, there is a new election in January of 2017.
"Third, we, as a conference, should unify now, and not after a divisive speaker election. ... Then I will gladly serve. And, if I am not unifying, that is fine as well. I will be happy to stay where I am, at the Ways and Means Committee."
Translated: Ryan has no interest in taking on a job where he is doomed to fail.
Ryan, told by many it was time step up, has, but is leaving the decision up to his fellow congressmen, who hopefully continued to listen through to the end of his speech Tuesday night.
"People don't care about blame. They don't care about effort. They care about results. Results that are meaningful. Results that are measurable. Results that make a difference in their daily lives. ... My greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up. Of someday having my own kids ask me, when the stakes were so high, 'Why didn't you do all you could? Why didn't you stand and fight for my future when you had the chance?'"
Ryan will stand and fight for America's future — if given the chance.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, visit www.creators.com.