Is Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) really as helpless as he portrays himself to be? Is mulling over the possibility of considering sanctions really the only thing he can do when faced with a possibly treasonous president?
No. The answer is no. While it is more challenging for Congress to impose checks over foreign policy issues, there are things Congress can and should do.
In fact, Republicans have broad powers to check this President, but they are choosing not to use them.
Here are five things Paul Ryan could do to protect his country if he really wanted to.
1. Pass legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by Donald Trump.
2. Pass legislation that protects and preserves the documents produced by the Mueller investigation.
3. Pass legislation that puts limits on the president’s power to unilaterally change policy on Syria, etc.
4. Add more sanctions against Russia every time Trump sides with Russia against his own country.
5. Pass legislation that requires financial disclosure from presidents and presidential candidates and holds presidents to the same ethical conflict of interest rules as the rest of the White House staff.
Paul Ryan is no Trump when it comes to telling lies, but he isn’t a boy scout of honor either. Most of Ryan’s more egregious acts come by way of doing nothing rather than taking action to block something or pass something, which makes sense – talking a lot and doing little is Ryan’s bread and butter, it allows him to preserve his false “policy wonk” persona by taking few risks that could expose his relative inexperience as compared to former Republican Speaker John Boehner, for example.
Cornell law professor Josh Chafetz, who wrote e a book on Congress’s tools for checking the White House, explained to the Washington Post in January when Trump was refusing to implement the Russia sanctions that Congress could do a few things to check Trump, but they were unlikely to. At the very least, they could hold hearings on why the sanctions were not being implemented as passed.
Paul Ryan is not helpless. Sure, he’s dealing with a conservative caucus, but if he were to make it known that he wanted to pass bipartisan legislation to protect this country from Donald Trump, he could. Of course he would have to word it more diplomatically, but he could frame it as a small government, Constitutional reinforcement in honor of our founders. I have a really great slogan idea, how about “America First.”
Oh, right. Maybe “Make America Great Again.”
Before Republicans blame Obama again for their failure to do anything meaningful in the face of Putin’s ongoing attack on our country, let PolitFact remind them, “As we’ve noted in previous fact-checks, the Obama administration took actions before and after Election Day. Prior to the election, the Obama administration publicly named the Russian government as the culprit, confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin in person, and worked to secure U.S. election infrastructure — all while intelligence agencies investigated the issue.”
In April, the Republican-led Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to pass a bipartisan bill to do several of the above listed items, including protecting Mueller and his documents, but Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.
The House soon followed suit and at least six House Republicans endorsed similar legislation “despite a new round of assurances from Speaker Paul Ryan that the effort is unnecessary.” Yes, it would be an uphill battle for Ryan, but he is choosing to claim it’s unnecessary rather than even try. It is necessary. Trump’s “#TreasonSummit” makes that clear. House Democrats demanded this be brought up for a vote to no avail.
These things are not likely to happen, as Paul Ryan has even called for an end to the Mueller probe. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t demand that he do them.
There are things that could be done by Republicans. They are choosing not to take meaningful action to protect this country. Republicans are “thoughts and prayers”-ing their way out of the Russia betrayal, just like they do out of meaningful gun control. They are the perpetual adolescent, the commitment-phobe making empty promises.
Words. Just words.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.