Finley: Trott on Ryan; believe what he’s saying
Dave Trott may be the only one in Washington who buys House Speaker Paul Ryan’s explanation for why he’s leaving Congress.
Trott, the two-term representative from Birmingham, made the same decision a year ago and for the same stated reason. Like Ryan, he felt being a congressman was incompatible with being a family man.
“His job is incredibly demanding,” Trott says of Ryan. “All of our jobs here are more demanding than people realize.”
Trott says a congressman has three full-time jobs: Making laws and policy, “which we’re not very good at”; listening to constituents, “which is the most gratifying part”; and fundraising and campaigning for re-election, “which takes up about half of our time” and makes doing the other two well all but impossible.
It’s not a very satisfying mix, says Trott, who ran his own business before coming to Congress.
“I didn’t come here expecting to find a highly functioning group,” he says. “But I felt my time wasn’t being used very well based on our ability to get things done. In business, I was used to living on planes and working 60-70 hour weeks. But I never felt like the job was designed for you to fail. Here, it is.”
As for Ryan, Trott dismisses speculation the speaker is heading home to Wisconsin because he’s worried about being ousted by a GOP caucus ever embroiled in infighting.
“If we hold the majority, he would have continued to be speaker,” Trott says.
But he admits that’s a big “if.”
Republicans could lose previously safe seats across the country, Trott predicts, including the 11th District seat he currently holds.
“On one hand, I do believe that because of the deregulation and tax reforms we’ve put in place, the economy is stronger and growing faster than it was under President Obama,” Trott says. “That bodes well for holding the majority.
“On the flip side is President Trump. Because of his unusual approach to governing and the noise he creates with his tweets, he has energized Democrats. If their turnout is extraordinarily high, we could lose.”
The advice Trott offers Republican candidates seeking to replace him is to keep Trump out of the district.
“If I were running, I’m not sure I’d invite President Trump to come into my district. It might make my re-election more difficult,” he says. “In this district, he would highly energize Democrats, and he perhaps would give some of the independents a reason not to vote for me, and independents are the largest voting bloc.
“Trump has done some great things, but he is a highly polarizing figure.”
Trott, who describes himself as a pragmatic lawmaker, hopes Ryan’s replacement as speaker is more in the mold of John Boehner, who was toppled from that post by the GOP’s ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus.
“If you get leadership that is too conservative, it just exacerbates the partisanship and makes it harder to get common sense solutions,” Trott says.
“As it is, President Trump has made it more difficult for Democrats to work with Republicans.”
And the overall climate in Congress has made it tougher for serious lawmakers like Trott and Ryan to weigh the personal sacrifices required of the job against the results they’re producing and decide it’s worth sticking around.
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