WASHINGTON — Freedom Caucus members trashed former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ahead of the unveiling of his portrait at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. But it was their contrast to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that revealed more about today's House GOP.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) called Ryan a "missed opportunity" because "we had everything," he said, referencing the GOP holding the House, Senate and White House after Donald Trump took over in 2017.
"Obamacare, the border, reckless spending, he failed to address any of that," said Burchett. "You only get one bite at the apple and he blew it."
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) agreed, saying that Ryan "didn't have the determination to secure the border, which had he done that we would not be having the trouble we're having today."
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Ryan disagreed with the Freedom Caucus, Norman explained. "McCarthy's done a good job," he said about the current Speaker being more agreeable to the far-right branch of the conference.
"He did a good job because we kind of indicated what we need to get this country back on track," Norman bragged. But Speaker Ryan "didn't do that. I think he looked on us with disdain."
Burchett said he has different thoughts on McCarthy, calling him an "excellent leader" even though they oftentimes don't agree.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) called Ryan a "good man," and noted, "there are a lot of Republicans whose presence you don't feel any more" in today's GOP.
"I never thought I would say this, but I miss Paul Ryan," confessed Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), "because he was not crazy and he had principles. Whether or not you disagreed with him, you understood he believed what he was saying. That's not what we have now."
He compared the era of Ryan to McCarthy by saying, "now when I see an apple on a table, a Republican colleague will say it's a banana. And when they live in an alternate reality, it's very hard to govern."
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) called Ryan a different brand of Republican than exists now. He recalled talking about sports with Ryan and seeing him in the congressional gym early in the mornings.
"It's pretty obvious that ideologically, he's a very different stripe of Republican than Donald Trump. He was Speaker of the House for two years under the Trump presidency, and I wonder if he looks back now and regrets that he enabled Trump for those two years instead of standing up to him when he could."
Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) wasn't paying much attention to the GOP leadership at that time, he explained. He was single-issue focused on gun legislation. He explained that regardless of the Republican lawmaker, the NRA is flexing its muscle on. Laws like permitless carry and reciprocity laws, where all concealed weapons licenses are honored across several states, are dangerous and extreme.