DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Barring a last-minute surprise, or shall we say another last-minute surprise, there will be a new speaker of the House this week. Republican Paul Ryan appears ready to be voted into the job by fellow lawmakers at a time when Ryan's party is trying to define itself, not just inside Congress, but out on the campaign trail. Let's bring in Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays. Good morning, Cokie.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: OK. So Ryan looks like he's going to take this job. He got the backing - he, well, sort of got the backing of the Freedom Caucus, that group of conservatives in the House. Is it looking like he can unite this party?
ROBERTS: Very hard to unite this party, and when you say he's sort of got the backing, that's correct. He got what they called a super majority, but not the 80 percent necessary to endorse him. He has gotten the endorsement of other Republican groups in the House of Representatives. But outside of the House, the ultraconservative voices on talk radio and in the blogosphere are attacking him in anticipation of him working across party lines to actually try to govern. And so he is getting a lot of criticism, even before this vote comes up in the caucus on Wednesday, on the House floor on Thursday. He's even gotten criticism, David, for wanting to spend time with his kids as opposed to spending weekends fundraising.
GREENE: So much for letting him get started and have a little space to get the - get going in the job.
GREENE: Let's talk about that family question for a minute, Cokie. I mean, there's this question about whether Ryan's statements that he's made about wanting to spend more time with his family and making them the priority and dealing with work-life balance could have an effect on, you know, a dialogue about actual issues, like parental leave. And I know you've had experience with that as - being in a family of lawmakers.
ROBERTS: (Laughter) Well, look, it can't hurt for a man in his position to talk about wanting to spend time with the family. Usually, when a politician says that, it means the sheriff is about to be at the door. But in some ways, for him to talk about it gives permission for women in the workplace to do what they've always been sneaking off to do, you know, teacher conferences, games, et cetera. But it's really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to happen in the workplace.
In terms of what needs to happen in Congress, my bigger view - issue with Paul Ryan and family is that they are in Wisconsin and the job is here. I talked to him about it once because I feel strongly that not only do kids benefit from understanding what their busy dad is doing hanging out in the capital, but it also affects how members relate to each other. If each other's kids are in your basement playing - well, in my case it would be "Clue," but now videogames - it's hard to demonize that family, and it makes it easier to get things done. Now, Paul Ryan said to me, look, I simply can't afford to come to Washington. It's just too expensive to move my family here. But, you know, it's not just expensive financially, It's expensive politically because members of Congress who move to Washington get all kinds of heat for having gone native - you know, gone inside and be insiders of the Beltway rather than outsiders.
GREENE: Well, and - I mean, certainly, this seems like a time when Ryan has to be careful with that because we look at the campaign trail and it seems like voters are, so far at least, voting against people who are part of the inside.
ROBERTS: To put it mildly, and we have another Republican debate coming up this week. Jeb Bush, who cut back on his staff at the end of last week with a lot of people saying this campaign is in real trouble, once again is in a position where he needs to break out in this debate. But it's going to be very hard to do because Donald Trump is now railing against Ben Carson, who has pulled ahead of him in a couple of Iowa polls. And Trump is just absolutely on the warpath and I think it's going to be very, very hard for anybody else's voice to be heard over his braying about Ben Carson.
GREENE: All right, Cokie, let's play a game of "Clue" sometime together if we can.
ROBERTS: (Laughter) OK, I'm good at it.
GREENE: All right.
GREENE: That's Cokie Roberts. She joins us most Mondays.
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