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Hours after a failed vote to elect the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan discussed the stalemate among Republicans in the search for Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) successor at an Institute of Politics forum Tuesday evening.
During the event, which was moderated by Harvard Kennedy School and Economics professor Karen E. Dynan, Ryan criticized the current state of national politics in relation to the economy and the rising national debt.
“You have unserious politics that is incapable of dealing with the drivers of our debt, which basically are our entitlement programs,” Ryan said.
“It’s all populism and personality, and that’s one of the reasons why people are having a hard time getting everybody to get on the same page,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the House Republican Conference’s nominee for speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), suffered a first ballot defeat.
Jordan — who was endorsed by Trump — lost by a greater margin than McCarthy did in his first ballot effort in January, making Jordan’s path to winning the gavel unclear.
“Jim’s the next guy in the queue and he’s trying it right now,” Ryan said. “I don’t think he will go 15 rounds,” he added, referencing McCarthy’s lengthy election process.
“It’s a harder hill to climb. I think [Jordan] can do it, but he’s got to flip 17 people,” he said.
The House has been paralyzed without a speaker for over two weeks since eight House Republicans were joined by all House Democrats in passing a motion to oust McCarthy from the position. During the forum, Ryan criticized the motion to vacate, which was tabled by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
“Kevin got vacated by Gaetz and seven other nihilists who are just burning the place down, no reason for it really,” he said.
Without a speaker, the House’s legislative business has ground to a halt, even as the crisis in the Middle East escalates and a government shutdown looms. In an interview with The Crimson following the forum, Ryan dismissed the idea of a bipartisan solution. Instead, he supported Speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) receiving “elevated powers,” to allow the legislative body to resume its duties.
“The last, last, last resort is a coalition government because that means the majority ceding its power to be a majority, ” Ryan said. “I think they’ll go to McHenry as a souped-up Speaker pro temp as the last resort before they do that.”
Ryan also discussed the crowded Republican primary field and last week’s Utah summit he co-hosted with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) that gathered GOP presidential hopefuls.
“Mitt and I are of the belief that we should coalesce around a single non-Trump person because two-thirds of our party wants somebody other than Donald Trump to be our nominee,” Ryan said in an interview with The Crimson.
“Our goal is to try and condense the field as quickly as possible around one person. We all have our different favorites, but that’s not as important as getting the field narrowed down fairly quickly,” he added.
Looking back on his political career, Ryan — who was Romney’s running mate during the 2012 presidential election — said he never sought out the political spotlight and “just wanted to be the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”
Still, he said he enjoyed his “exciting” three months on the campaign trail with Romney.
“I recommend it to everybody. Everybody should be a running mate for Vice President. It’s really fun,” Ryan added.
—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X @thomasjmete.
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