When he spoke with reporters on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan summoned every bit of his trademark smarm to dismiss the Democratic proposal to lift the debt ceiling for three months. “I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need,” he declared unctuously. Later that day, in a White House meeting, Ryan, McConnell, and Trump’s own economic advisers all maintained their stance that a mere three-month debt-ceiling increase was unacceptable. Trump himself reportedly rejected a Republican compromise plan for a six-month increase. Indeed, Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s own Treasury secretary, “was in the middle of an explanation backing a longer-term increase when the president interrupted him and disagreed.”
The Republican Party quickly formed a consensus that the deal was terrible for them. It’s not entirely clear this is true. There are several moving parts in the bills set to pass Congress this fall. Since Republicans will need Democrats to pass at least some of them, they believe holding more votes gives Democrats more leverage to include items they want, like relief from deportation for Dreamers and payments for insurers on the Obamacare exchanges. How the scramble will end is hard to predict right now. But the important thing is that Republicans believe they made a bad deal.
This belief is not especially noteworthy. Conservatives tend to believe most deals in Congress are bad. What is truly crazy is what happened next: Conservative activists angry about the deal are taking out their rage on Paul Ryan.
Three ultraconservative House Republicans met with Ryan, and “were ‘frank’ about their mounting concerns and warned Ryan that they and others in the House Republican conference could desert him in the coming months if the leadership fails to enact conservative policies,” the Washington Post reports.
Tarini Parti has more details about the right’s sense of betrayal and rage:
“We didn’t work this hard just to let Congress enact liberal policies,” said Jenny Beth Martin, president of Tea Party Patriots, who described the deal as “fool’s play” and a “trap” for Republicans.
Ken Cuccinelli of the Senate Conservatives Fund said the deal showed “why ordinary Republicans of every stripe believe Republican leadership must be replaced.” Pointing to McConnell specifically and the perceived lack of a conservative debt ceiling option for the president, he said, “If that’s going to be the habit in September, it’s going to be a very ugly September.”
Again, this is the deal that Donald Trump made personally. And that Paul Ryan opposed all along. They’re so angry Trump undermined Paul Ryan and made a deal they hate that they’re threatening Ryan’s job.