House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Paul Ryan appeared at a financial conference to warn that, if Democrats win control of either the House or the Senate in the November elections, “you’ll have gridlock, you’ll have subpoenas.” The gridlock part is true, but it is basically the case already. The Republican legislative agenda has come to a halt, and neither the party nor even its intellectual class has any ideas about which kinds of bills they ought to pass.
What really would change with Democratic control of a chamber is the subpoena part. But it’s worth spelling out just what it is Ryan is warning will happen — and what, by implication, he is confessing.
Ryan’s House has been run essentially as a subordinate arm of the Trump administration. Ryan and his party have quashed votes to compel release of Donald Trump’s tax returns, and they have used their investigative power not to oversee the presidency but to harass and intimidate the Department of Justice into falling into line behind the president’s whims, to the point where the acting attorney general had to bluntly accuse House Republicans of trying to “extort” him. Trump and his family have used their power to enrich themselves personally, with no hearings or oversight whatsoever from the House. His Cabinet members have likewise misspent funds and abused their authority without any accountability from the committees that are putatively tasked with the job.
Paul Ryan doesn’t like to talk about this part of his job, because he cherishes his reputation as an idea maven. But Ryan has played an invaluable role covering up and enabling Trump administration scandals. When he says his party needs to keep control of the House to prevent subpoenas, he is both promising the cover-ups will continue if his party keeps its control of government, and expressing his clear belief that he opposes any level of independent oversight of the Executive branch.