The Next Speaker Must Do Something about Spending

With Paul Ryan still sitting squarely on the fence about whether or not he will run for Speaker of the House, the Republican leadership elections still remain largely up in the air. There has so far been a troubling inability of the conference to identify a suitable candidate who embodies the values that are important to an open congressional process, and who could garner enough support to actually win the election.

This is surprising given that the demands for such a position are not outrageous. No one is expecting a freedom warrior like Justin Amash or Thomas Massie to become Speaker of the House. The House Freedom Caucus, widely the most principled wing of the Republican Party, has endorsed Dan Webster, a man with only a 64 percent lifetime score on FreedomWorks legislative scorecard, proving that there’s more to the leadership fight than simply demanding ideological purity.

Instead, process reforms are being stressed, most notably the ability of every Member to have his or her voice heard. John Boehner’s habit of closing off discussions from dissenting members and punishing those who voted against him is arguably the worst feature of his speakership, and the one most important for new leadership to change.

Secondary to this, but still of the utmost importance, is a Speaker who will commit to maintaining the budget caps established in 2011. The Speaker certainly doesn’t need to side with most conservative/libertarian factions in his party all of the time, but a Republican who is not committed to spending restraint has no place leading the House of Representatives.

As ongoing budget negotiations appear increasingly to threaten the spending caps, it’s especially crucial that whoever the party ends up uniting behind have a strong commitment to reining in spending, and holding the line against those who would increase it without limit.

Government spending is ultimately the greatest threat to our long-term prosperity, with debt surpassing our total national output, interest payments consumer a greater and greater share of the budget. When interest rates rise, as they inevitably must, our inability to pay our bills will rapidly become a stark and chilling reality. We have to address these problems now, before it’s too late. The budget caps are only a small fraction of what needs to be done, but at least they represent some change from automatic spending increases every year, and if the leadership of the supposedly “small government” party can’t even defend those, it’s hard to see how we avert a genuine debt crisis down the road.