Everyone loves wonky ol’ Paul Ryan.
He’s the go-to choice of pundits when they need a “serious” Republican to show how objective and nonpartisan they are. Mitt Romney named him his 2012 running mate on the basis of his “serious” budget plans (which gutted entitlements like Medicaid). He slid into the House speakership because he was the only “serious” Republican left who could garner support across his party.
He’s so “serious,” his dramatically reluctant endorsement of festering pustule Donald Trump marked the official capitulation of mainstream Republicans to Trumpism.
He’s had to distance himself from Trump a few times during the campaign, calling Trump’s comments about a judge of Mexican descent “textbook racism” and issuing a tepid statement when Trump went to war with the Muslim parents of a dead soldier. Some optimistic souls hoped Ryan would go as far as to rescind his endorsement for these and other Trump atrocities.
But he didn’t, and he won’t. Not because he’s painted himself into a political corner, and not out of loyalty to the Republican nominee. Paul Ryan supports Donald Trump for president because he’s just as awful as Donald Trump.
Congress just returned from its August recess (tanned and well-rested, I hope), and while they were away, the number of mosquito-borne Zika virus infections in the United States has grown steadily — concentrated, for now, mostly in Florida. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant are living in fear that a single mosquito bite could mean microcephaly or other severe birth defects for their child. Florida’s Republican governor has said his state urgently needs federal funding to fight the spread of the virus. But so far, Congress hasn’t appropriated a single dime to fight Zika.
It gets worse.
Republicans know they could write a bill funding Zika prevention and research with emergency money and pass it in a matter of hours. Such a bill would garner massive bipartisan support and sail through to the president’s desk. The money could be in the right hands as quickly as it takes Treasury to cut the check. Instead, Republicans are using the growing health crisis as an opportunity to push an ugly, anti-woman agenda. And Paul Ryan is running the show.
The bill Republicans are pushing would cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Republicans target the group because it provides abortions, but federal funds don’t go to pay for those — that’s been banned for nearly as long as abortion has been legal in the U.S. by the perennially renewed Hyde Amendment. Banning federal funds would only harm Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide other services, including contraception. That means if Republicans get their way, even more women could end up pregnant with children affected by the virus.
The Republicans put the Planned Parenthood-kneecapping in the bill because they know Democrats, who care about women getting health care, will block it. That gives Republicans the opportunity to claim, disingenuously, that Democrats are the ones standing in the way of Zika funding.
That’s exactly what Paul Ryan did Monday, tweeting out a statement claiming Democrats “have now blocked this funding for the third time” and “must finally give up the act and get the job done.”
It is solely Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress who are responsible for blocking the funding for ZIka and putting the lives of children — children! — at grave risk. They’ve turned a critical emergency funding request into an ugly tool for political gain. They’re trying to shut down a health care provider that the nation’s most vulnerable women rely on for everything from abortion to screening for cancer to preventing sexually transmitted infections — including Zika.
This is as awful as any of the horrible things we’ve seen Donald Trump do over the course of this campaign. It’s ugly politics at its ugliest, dressed up in fancy suits and procedural votes. Children are being born with debilitating birth defects, and Paul Ryan believes that’s an opportunity to score some political points or maybe even shut down some health clinics.
Ryan has a carefully crafted image. His initial reluctance to endorse Trump was an attempt to draw a line between “serious” Republicans like him and a clown like Trump. Don’t let his antics fool you. There’s a reason the party of Paul Ryan nominated Donald Trump: They’re peas in the same morally corrupt pod. Anyone who would risk the health of women and children the way Ryan is doing deserves a nominee like Trump.