House conservatives serve notice to Ryan and Clinton

Published 10:34 am Friday, September 9, 2016

WASHINGTON — House conservatives have wasted no time since returning from their summer recess showing just how tough they can make life for Speaker Paul Ryan — and for Democrat Hillary Clinton if she becomes president.

Conservatives look determined to force a vote in coming days to impeach the head of the IRS despite deep misgivings among other Republicans about such a pre-election move.

They’re pressuring Ryan to oppose a deal taking shape in the Senate on must-pass legislation to keep the government open.

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And they’re promising to keep investigating Clinton’s email issues even if she ends up in the White House. Some conservatives are even saying openly that impeachment hearings should be an option against Clinton.

“There probably ought to be,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

Together the dynamics underscore the competing pressures that could confront Clinton and Ryan in a new era of divided government if she wins the presidency in November and he is re-elected speaker in January. Their relationship faces deep constraints even before it begins, in part because of a single group of people — the several dozen deeply conservative lawmakers who are keeping Ryan on a short leash and who are among the Republicans pushing for ongoing investigations of Clinton.

“If Hillary Clinton is elected president this Congress has to reassert itself in the path that the founding fathers imagined,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, echoing a frequent observation from House Republicans who lament that Congress has ceded its constitutional authority under President Barack Obama.

“If I’m Paul Ryan I would be positioning myself to assert this power that Congress legitimately has,” King added. “I would put a statement out there we will use the power of the purse and we will stare down any president that wants to defy the will of the people, and we’re not going to be swayed by public criticism.”

For Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who became speaker a year ago after his predecessor resigned under pressure from the right, such comments serve notice that conservatives will be watching closely to see how he interacts with a President Clinton.