In the weeks after Paul Ryan took the House speaker’s gavel, reporters began casting various bills and decisions as his “first test.” That instant cliché has more than run its course. But 2016 will test the new speaker many times over, even if it’s thankfully way too soon for hot takes on “Paul Ryan’s Final Exam.”
Across the Capitol, where the filibuster makes it even harder to get anything done, 2016 brings the final year of battles between Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and retiring Democratic leader Harry Reid. Maybe the two longtime rivals will be in a mood to negotiate, or the presidential race could mean that political messaging trumps governing.
Here’s a rundown of 11 questions that will actually determine what this Congress can still accomplish, where the political fault lines will be drawn, and where power will truly reside.
Will Paul Ryan Be a ‘Regular’ Guy?
Ryan has vowed to break with the John Boehner era by giving real power to the committees and rank-and-file members, rather than concentrating all the decision-making leadership suites. In Beltway jargon, he promised “regular order.”
But that will be easier said than done, especially in a Capitol Hill culture of last-second decision making. It certainly isn’t the new norm yet. Recently, a quickly crafted bill to temporarily block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. and tighten screening never went through committee. Nor did the massive “omnibus” spending package approved in December, which members saw just two days before casting votes.