From Obama court pick to Ryan 2016 chatter, DC debates going nowhere – for now

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What do the nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, the House Republican budget, a new courtship of House Speaker Paul Ryan to run for president and Washington, D.C., commuters have in common?

They were all going nowhere Wednesday.

The head of Washington’s subway system ordered an historic, system-wide, 29-hour shutdown of the service, citing safety concerns. The alarming closure produced prodigious traffic jams and stranded people all over the metropolitan region.

They were going nowhere. And they weren’t the only ones.

The same day, President Obama nominated District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. But it didn’t matter if the president tapped Felix Frankfurter, Warren Burger or the manager of In-N-Out Burger for the high court.

Garland’s nomination was going nowhere in the Senate.

The commuting and confirmation snarls also provided a backdrop for a nine-hour House Budget Committee session preparing a spending blueprint for fiscal 2017. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Gal., and the GOP leadership wanted the budget finished earlier this month. But fissures among House Republicans over spending and entitlements stymied the plan. After delays and tweaks, the budget panel finally approved the resolution, 20-16. Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., and Dave Brat, R-Va., were the two GOP noes.

But this budget faces a dim future on the House floor. Conservatives argue the budget should detonate a spending pact forged between the president and former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, last fall. This budget fails to do that. As a result, Republican leaders are struggling with their vote count.

This budget is going nowhere in the House.

Finally, there’s the latest flirtation with Ryan and the presidency.

Boehner backs his fellow Ohioan, Buckeye State Gov. John Kasich, for president. But the former speaker dropped a bombshell this week.

In an off-the-cuff moment before a trade association conference in Florida, Boehner said the Republican Party should consider choosing Paul Ryan as its presidential nominee. But there was a caveat. Boehner said Ryan’s name should only be in the mix if Republicans fail to anoint Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, or Kasich as their standard-bearer on the first ballot at the July convention. Of course this put Ryan on the defensive. Ryan asserted on CNBC he made a conscious decision not to run for president. He’s not mulling it. He rejected the idea of a contested convention. And Ryan’s spokeswoman indicated the speaker wouldn’t accept the nomination.

Again, a prospect going nowhere.

But only in Washington would a dead-end roadway serve as a busy interstate. This phenomenon permeates the city’s culture. Certain political enterprises look like they are “going nowhere.” But that rarely means political operators drop those projects immediately.

Merrick Garland visits Capitol Hill Thursday. He huddles with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Several Republican senators signaled a willingness to meet with Garland – even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, are adamant they’ll spike the nomination.

“Oh yes. I’d meet with anybody,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. “I meet with people. That’s what I do.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was more than happy to accept a courtesy call from Garland.

“There should be personal meetings like we usually do,” said Collins. “The Senate works best when we follow the normal order.”

Grassley spoke Wednesday with Garland on the phone. In fact, the call came at “3:19,” according to the Iowa Republican’s staff. The senator expressed interest in a confab with the nominee – even if it’s all for naught.

McConnell isn’t budging. After his call with Garland, one of McConnell’s aides told reporters the Kentucky Republican “would not be holding a perfunctory meeting,” especially “since the Senate will not be acting on this nomination.”

Going nowhere.

House Republicans still haven’t resolved their internal schisms to advance the budget on the floor. But that didn’t stop Ryan from praising the plan late Wednesday night.

“The blueprint also repeals Obamacare, shrinks the EPA, improves Medicare and Medicaid, strengthens our military and calls for tax reform,” said the speaker in a statement.

But does the budget achieve those things if it’s short of votes for passage on the floor?

Going nowhere.

The Ryan for president and brokered convention scenario? Time will tell. But from here on, the Capitol will echo with regular chatter about recruiting Ryan should the convention descend into a politico inferno.

“I think a contested convention may be inevitable,” proffered Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. “There are going to be hurt feelings no matter what.”

Even if the Ryan idea is going nowhere.

(Of course, everyone keeps pointing out that the last time Ryan found himself in such a position, things actually did lead somewhere.)

It is said that all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. The political thoroughfares which bore through Washington, D.C., Wednesday seemingly transported its passengers nowhere. Vacant boulevards. Roads to oblivion. Yet, Washingtonians may end up at some outpost they never before anticipated.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.