All Aboard the MAGA Train: House Republicans Throw Ryan Under the Bus at Portrait Reveal

As the dust settled on the U.S. Capitol yesterday, a gaggle of Freedom Caucus members wasted no time in tearing into their former GOP compatriot, ex-Speaker Paul Ryan, during his official portrait unveiling. The spectacle was less about celebrating the former leader, and more about highlighting the yawning chasm that’s formed in today’s House GOP.

In a moment that felt like stepping through the looking glass, Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN) dubbed Ryan’s reign as a “missed opportunity.” From his perspective, the GOP had it all when Trump took the helm in 2017, but the ‘all’ crumbled under Ryan. From Obamacare to border issues and uncurbed spending, Ryan allegedly flunked on all fronts. According to Burchett, Ryan blew their one “bite at the apple.”

Echoing Burchett’s sentiments, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) pointed a finger at Ryan for today’s border crisis. Norman contrasted Ryan’s approach with the current Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who apparently finds more favor with the Freedom Caucus. McCarthy, according to Norman, is delivering on their demands to get the country back on track.

Meanwhile, Burchett labeled McCarthy as an “excellent leader,” despite their occasional disagreements.

On the other side of the aisle, the feelings toward Ryan’s tenure are a bit more nuanced. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) recognized Ryan as a “good man,” while lamenting the absence of moderate voices within the GOP.

An unlikely source of praise for Ryan emerged from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “I never thought I would say this, but I miss Paul Ryan,” Lieu confessed, citing the ex-Speaker’s firm principles and sanity. Lieu vividly highlighted the new normal, where debating facts with Republican colleagues feels akin to arguing whether an apple is a banana.

For Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Ryan represented a different breed of Republicans, far removed from the Trumpian influence. Boyle recalls gym encounters and sports chats with Ryan and wonders if the former Speaker now regrets enabling Trump instead of opposing him.

But for Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL), Republican leadership at that time was a sideshow. His attention was focused on a single issue: gun legislation. Despite the identity of the GOP lawmaker in charge, Frost observed, the NRA was pulling the strings, pushing for extreme laws like permitless carry and universal reciprocity.

As this dramatic tableau unfolded at Ryan’s portrait unveiling, it was impossible not to notice the divergent paths the GOP has taken. It’s clear that the era of ‘Ryan Republicans’ has ended, and the MAGA tide, led by the likes of McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus, is in full swing.