Gage Skidmore / Flickr paul ryan...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Poor little Eddie Munster. He’s like that character in the new Starz series “Counterpart.” He spends his whole life in one reality, only to find out that behind a door is a completely different reality in an identical setting.

To understand Paul Ryan’s current confusion and frustration, you need to take a quick look at his and his party’s recent past. For 6 years, running the House as a Republican was a snap, the pickings were lush, and the living was easy. all you had to keep a promise was to make one. Wanna repeal Obamacare? Kewl, write it up and hold a vote. You wanna gut Social Security and Medicare? Knock your socks off, hold the vote. The GOP Speaker of the House, whether John Boehner or Paul Ryan, could write and vote on any damn bill they wanted, and pass it, with absolutely no risk to themselves. First of all, the chances were slim to none that the Senate would pass the bill, and second, even if they did, Obama would only veto it. The GOP could “keep” every single promise they made, and then blame Obama for its failure.

The funny thing is, that in the current flap over the DACA program, the same damn formula should hold true. Chuck Schumer starts threatening a shutdown over DACA, all McConnell had to say was “Fine, write it up, and I’ll bring it to the floor for a vote, no filibuster.” Nancy Pelosi starts giving Paul Ryan noogies on the floor of the House over the Dreamers, all Ryan has to say is, “Fine, if the Senate passes a bill, you have my word that I’ll bring it to the floor for a vote. What’s next?” Political suicide for the GOP? Absolutely not. Why? Because none of it fucking matters! Let’s just say that McConnell brings a clean DACA fix to the floor, and it passes. Then Ryan brings the Senate bill to the floor, and it passes. So, what happens next? It goes to Trump’s desk for signature, and he promptly vetoes the bill and wipes his ass with it. Ryan and McConnell can turn to Pelosi and Schumer respectively and say, “Gee, I kept my part of the bargain. I promised an up or down vote, and I delivered on it. If you’ve got a problem, take it up with Trump, not me. Can we move on and nuke the social safety net now?” Different scenario, identical results.

But here’s where the alternate reality sets in. In the reality Ryan and McConnell lived in, Obama was a known quantity, a steady rock that their unwanted bills could crash into and break apart. I seem to recall a moment a few years ago, where in return for McConnell’s support on a bill Harry Reid wanted, he in return held a no filibuster vote on some nonsense bill from the House, and upon passage Obama vetoed it. It was all political kabuki. The problem is that Trump is a total wild card, Ryan and McConnell can’t trust him as far as they can throw the capitol building.

There is good reason for them to be terrified of Trump. Remember, back in September they thought he was going to hold Schumer and Pelosi’s feet to the fire in a White House meeting to discuss the continuing resolution. Instead, Trump sided with Schumer and Pelosi on a clean three month extension, making Ryan and McConnell look like idiots to their caucuses. What if the gruesome twosome sends a clean DACA bill to Trump’s desk for him to slide into the shredder, and instead Trump signs the damn thing in an effort to make Hispanics love him in 2020, what happens then? I’ll tell you what happens then, Hispanics will still hate Trump, and the GOP’s racist base will lose their collective minds for giving 1.8  million illegals “amnesty.” Just like with the continuing resolution, in his mind Trump wins the Kentucky Derby, and Ryan and McConnell get to muck out the stalls.

So, now you’re in the loop. And while nobody feels sorry for Eddie Munster, at least you can understand why he’s at such a loss as to what to do next. What does a guy have to do to get a little predictability around here anyway?

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