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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

The Messy Task of Governing

Mark Trahant

Tuesday’s debate was kind of like a traffic accident. You drive by not wanting to look, but then you do, and it’s awful, so you think, “why did I do that?” About the closest thing to reality was when Jeb Bush pointed out that Trump is a chaos candidate who would be a chaos president. True. But that idea fits Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and perhaps others on the stage. And worse, the idea of willful chaos also fits the majority of Republican voters right now. It’s these voter groups that are demanding destruction in Washington.

Meanwhile in Washington folks are actually trying to govern. The new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, announced a compromise with Democrats early Wednesday morning on a spending bill to fund the government next year. The current funding bill expires today. A vote could come on Friday on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. It’s a 2,000-plus page bill that wraps up spending across the government, including funding for the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs including contract support costs. (I am still reading the bill, but details will be surfaced soon.)

The bill means no more fights over Planned Parenthood, the Environmental Protection Administration, zeroing out the Affordable Care Act, or a shut down of government.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans won every position. Most Democrats aren’t keen on a provision that ends a ban on the export of U.S. oil (although that provision has been championed by North Dakota Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp working with Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.) But Republicans were unsuccessful in getting tighter restrictions on refugees and stripping Planned Parenthood funding.

One especially disappointing provision is a continued ban on funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence. It’s one thing to be against gun control, but to not even study the problem? C’mon.

The basic problem for Speaker Ryan is that the only way this budget passes Congress is with Democratic votes. Too many Republicans will vote no on any budget that is not ideologically pure. (Measures that have no chance of becoming law.)

Watch what happens next: Will talk radio and conservative groups such as Heritage Action lobby against the bill? There are a lot of ways that can happen: Such as threatening primary opponents to those members who vote yes.

The question is Congress ready to govern? Or do they really like the chaos that was stage center in Las Vegas? Ryan, at least, has chosen to govern.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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