Can Paul Ryan Be Speaker and Still be Home for Family Dinner?

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Paul Ry­an was al­most there, but after weeks of Re­pub­lic­ans beg­ging him to step in and solve their messy search for a House speak­er, a nag­ging con­cern could hold him back: Would he, the fath­er of chil­dren aged 10, 12, and 13, be able to handle the job’s in­tense fun­drais­ing sched­ule without neg­lect­ing his fam­ily?

Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scal­ise, who ac­cord­ing to this of­fice has raised more than $2.5 mil­lion for his party this year, thought tex­ting Ry­an a photo might con­vince him that he could in­deed do it all.

In the pic­ture, Scal­ise is crouched down. His arms are around his two kids at St. Cath­er­ine’s school back in Louisi­ana. LSU base­ball cap and smile on, Scal­ise is covered in icy-blue silly string as his kids stand proudly dis­play­ing their empty can­is­ters of goo.

He sent it along with a mes­sage: “I’ve been at the kids’ school fair all week­end. You can do this too!”

In the end, Ry­an agreed to the job—and now he’ll find out if Scal­ise was right.

In terms of fun­drais­ing, Ry­an and Re­pub­lic­ans have big shoes to fill. Out­go­ing House Speak­er John Boehner’s de­vo­tion to fun­drais­ing set re­cords. By Ju­ly of this year, Politicore­por­ted that Boehner had already raised $28 mil­lion for the 2016 cycle and the he had held roughly 100 events. Boehner is gen­er­ous with his for­tunes. Ac­cord­ing to an ana­lys­is from the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics, Boehner has giv­en more money to his col­leagues—$41.1 mil­lion—than any oth­er mem­ber in Con­gress.

Ry­an’s rule was that he was not go­ing to spend every week­end on the road. He was go­ing to be there for his kids back in Wis­con­sin.

And some in the caucus—in­clud­ing some Free­dom Caucus mem­bers who were already on the fence about Ry­an for fear that he was too close to the party es­tab­lish­ment—have ex­pressed con­cern that he won’t be able to fill the party’s cam­paign cof­fers in the same man­ner as his pre­de­cessor.

“As he has pub­licly stated, he is a fath­er. He has young chil­dren. He does not have the time to do the speak­er’s job as it has been done in the past,” Rep. Mo Brooks, a Re­pub­lic­an from Alabama and Free­dom Caucus mem­ber, said last week be­fore Ry­an was elec­ted.

Their gripes with Ry­an’s fam­ily de­mands were just one of the many con­cerns they har­bored about Ry­an as speak­er. The group of roughly 40 con­ser­vat­ives also wor­ried about Ry­an’s po­s­i­tion on im­mig­ra­tion and his his­tory of ne­go­ti­at­ing with Demo­crats on everything from trade to the budget.

But, those close to Ry­an say any con­cerns about a fu­ture fun­drais­ing slump are un­war­ran­ted. Ry­an, after all, was the party’s 2012 vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee and was serving as the power­ful Ways and Means Com­mit­tee chair­man be­fore step­ping up to take the gavel. He’s raised $40 mil­lion for him­self and giv­en about $8 mil­lion ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. As a ma­jor fun­draiser for the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee, his re­la­tion­ships with K Street and big party donors run deep.

“I think if there was any­one who could step in­to the former speak­er’s shoes it is go­ing to be him,” Rep. Frank Lu­cas toldNa­tion­al Journ­al. “I know there are con­cerns about how many days of week or how many or hours he com­mits, but like everything else in life, it is not volume, it is qual­ity.”

So what’s Ry­an’s plan to bring in Boehner­loads of money while still spend­ing time with his kids?

Ry­an’s al­lies say he’ll find a way to do more with few­er hours. An avid golfer, Boehner was known to raise money leis­urely. He pre­ferred spend­ing long af­ter­noons on the golf course on a Sat­urday rather than just a two-hour din­ner re­cep­tion. As whip, Scal­ise has made use of his travel days—the Monday and Fri­day when he is of­ten com­mut­ing between Louisi­ana and Wash­ing­ton—to raise money. He can make it to D.C. by way of cit­ies like Hou­s­ton or New York, stop­ping briefly to fun­draise. It is a mod­el that Ry­an, who com­mutes between D.C. and south­ern Wis­con­sin, has also used.

“This was his life, his love, his com­mit­ment. This was his bliss,” said Rep. Cyn­thia Lum­mis, a Re­pub­lic­an from Wyom­ing, about Boehner’s fun­drais­ing style. “I have a feel­ing these guys will al­most be like a young med­ic­al prac­tice where they will be on call. I think they will fall more in­to a ro­ta­tion so all the bur­den is not on the speak­er. “

In re­cent years, the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee has fallen shortof the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee on fun­drais­ing. But Re­pub­lic­ans have still man­aged to se­cure ma­jor ma­jor­it­ies in the House, and Ry­an has prom­ised to fo­cus his fun­drais­ing time on the NR­CC in­stead of the RNC.

Mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans have been an­noyed that the Far Right has at­tacked Ry­an on fun­drais­ing at all, giv­en that the NR­CC’s short­com­ings can some­times be traced back to less-gen­er­ous mem­bers who don’t meet their party’s fun­drais­ing dues.

“For good­ness sakes, the guy is bet­ter known than any­one in the House cham­ber, he has demon­strated his fun­drais­ing prowess up here. He was the chair­man of the RNC pres­id­en­tial trust, and look, he prob­ably has the best small-donor name that any­body could have,” said Rep. Tom Cole, who is close to Ry­an and lead­er­ship. “Most of the people com­plain­ing, by the way, are people who don’t raise any money them­selves.”

Even Demo­crats like former DCCC Chair­man Steve Is­rael aren’t pre­dict­ing that Ry­an will come up short on fun­drais­ing—though they’re couch­ing it in a far-less com­pli­ment­ary fash­ion.

“I don’t think Paul Ry­an needs to be out there rais­ing money every week­end for the party. The spe­cial in­terests that he has tried to re­ward by tak­ing $800 bil­lion away from Medi­care will be happy to just sign whatever checks he asks for,” Is­rael said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec