House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., implausibly — and contradictorily — insists that he agrees more than he disagrees with Donald Trump, and besides can stop the long list of nutty stuff Trump wants to do.
In fact, the two differ on entitlement reform, trade, immigration, Russia, NATO and much more. The really nutty stuff Trump may do — disregarding treaties, wrecking alliances, cozying up to Vladimir Putin, ignoring court decisions, fueling bigotry, provoking a standoff with our military, ruining America’s international image — Ryan would be hard-pressed to stop.
Listening to Hillary Clinton’s speech, however, the reverse may be true. Ryan and Clinton might agree on some big things, while Republicans could block or reduce portions of her agenda they find unwise.
As to the latter, Congress can decline to pass many items on her wish list (mandatory paid leave, expansion of Social Security, “free college tuition”). Other items simply are not going to happen (e.g., a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United). But there are things they can agree on: Spending on infrastructure, promoting alternatives to four-year college, reform of legal immigration, corporate tax reform, redoubling efforts against the Islamic State, and military assistance to Israel.
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In other instances, Republicans in Congress can push her in ways she might be inclined to go if not for her left-wing base. The White House and Ryan Republicans could work together on new sanctions against Russia and Iran, charter schools (which she liked before having to genuflect before the teachers unions in the election) and — sorry Sandernistas — figuring out how to pass (e.g., trade assistance for displaced workers) the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which has economic and national security benefits).
Because Clinton has a genuine interest in fighting poverty, she could be persuaded to look at elements of Ryan’s anti-poverty agenda that drew bipartisan praise, especially expansion of the earned-income tax credit. They could get creative and, in the tax realm, for example, look at a payroll tax cut, which would disproportionately benefit working- and middle-class Americans.
It is not impossible to imagine a “grand bargain” with these two, along the lines of the deal that President Barack Obama had within his grasp before reneging on negotiations with former speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Surely they can go back to the list of spending cuts that Vice President Joe Biden and House Republicans put together in 2011. It is not inconceivable that, like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, Clinton and Ryan could agree on reforms to keep Social Security afloat.
This suggests divided government might work for both sides. We expect, as Election Day grows near, that Republicans in states tipping toward Clinton will suggest exactly that. “Don’t give Hillary a blank check” certainly has some appeal.
Now, the GOP is not going to get rid of Obamacare or achieve supply-side tax cuts or undo many excessive regulations under a President Clinton, but then, that was baked in as soon as the party jumped off a cliff and picked Trump.
If Clinton wins, Republicans should be wary of prioritizing conflict over cooperation. The country cannot afford another failed president and four more years of gridlock; the GOP cannot afford four more years of extremist rhetoric, aversion to good governance and blind rage.