Paul Ryan Emerges From Health Care Defeat Badly Damaged
Less than 18 months after being elected speaker, Mr. Ryan has emerged from the defeat of the health care bill badly damaged, retaining a grip on the job but left to confront the realities of his failure — imperiling the odd-couple partnership that was supposed to sustain a new era of conservative government under unified Republican rule.
So far, to the surprise of some close to Mr. Trump, the president has remained upbeat on Mr. Ryan, a frequent punching bag during the 2016 campaign and an ideological mismatch whose instincts informed the molding and selling of the health bill far more than the president’s own.
But after a humiliating defeat, which many Trump advisers are eager to pin on the speaker, Mr. Ryan is now tasked with defending not just his leadership abilities but his very brand of conservatism in a party fitfully searching for a coherent policy identity that can deliver tangible victories.
In this first fight, Mr. Ryan’s more orthodox right-leaning vision was co-opted only halfheartedly by Mr. Trump, who has few fixed political beliefs, in service of a bill the president never well understood, even as he laid on the superlatives in praising it. Now, Mr. Ryan must tug a ruptured conference toward future agenda items, like overhauling the tax code, made all the more difficult by this initial failure.
Paul Ryan spoke to reporters on Friday about withdrawing the health care act.
Credit:Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times