The former Republican congressman sang a different tune in 2016, when his party gained control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Former GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Tuesday that President-elect Joe Biden would actually be better off if Republicans keep control of the Senate and are able to block his agenda.
Control of the Senate is riding on two runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for Jan. 5, 2021.
But four years ago, Ryan had a very different take on divided government.
"I personally think it's in Joe Biden's best interest — he would obviously not want to hear this — for us to win these Georgia Senate seats," the former representative from Wisconsin and 2012 vice presidential nominee said during a conference call organized by Bank of America, according to Politico.
"Because then he really does have divided government and he really does have to work with both sides of the aisle and you won't have the building pressure from the left to try and jam the other side."
Ryan seemingly praised Biden's experience working across the aisle.
"Joe Biden knows how to work in divided government. He's a good guy. He's a very nice person. He keeps his word," Ryan said. "So, he does know how to work in divided government. He does put deals together, and that will be made much, much easier for him to operate like that and bring sides together if we truly have divided government."
Ryan added that it would somehow make Biden a better president to have a Republican-controlled Senate working against him.
"If we don't have divided government and they narrowly get the Senate, then frankly I think he's going to be a much less successful president," Ryan said. "I know that's sort of contrary to conventional wisdom, but that's just how I feel."
The former House speaker's comments come as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his caucus are reportedly preparing to block both Biden's Cabinet choices and any progressive legislative agenda — if they can hold onto their majority in January.
Ryan's desire for divided control of the branches of government flatly contradicts his own words in 2016. "I'm tired of divided government," he told the Washington Ideas Week forum sponsored by the Atlantic and the Aspen Institute in September of that year. "It doesn't work very well."
At the time, Ryan complained about the two parties not being able to work together.
"We're just at loggerheads. We've gotten some good things done. But the big things — poverty, the debt crisis, the economy, health care — these things are stuck in divided government, and that's why we think a unified Republican government's the way to go," Ryan said.
When Ryan got his wish and Republicans won total control of the government in the 2016 elections, neither he nor his colleagues expressed much concern about the need to "work with both sides of the aisle" or a lack of checks and balances. They rammed through a massive tax cut that mostly benefited the rich and corporations in 2017, without a single Democratic vote.
But now that it appears the American voters may prefer unified Democratic control, Republicans like Ryan are suddenly very opposed to the concept.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-GA) told Fox News on Monday that such a scenario would be a "trifecta from hell." "It's the end of checks and balances," he warned. "It would fundamentally change the country as we know it. The fate of the Republic really lies in the hands of our friends in Georgia… I'm worried as we speak tonight."
Utah Gov.-elect Spencer Cox tweeted after the election: "While we may not know which party controls the senate until after Georgia runoffs, there is hope for divided government. Both the Reagan and Clinton administrations proved that periods of divided control can be good for Americans."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a right-wing media personality, told Fox News on Tuesday that divided government is good because, when one party has full control, "they run ramshod over not just the other party, but over the American people — half of whom may not agree with those policies."
Without actually acknowledging that Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been trying to make the case in recent days that voters should back them as a "firewall" against Biden's agenda — even though Biden won the state of Georgia running on that very agenda.
Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Jan. 5 runoff. Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock in the runoff for the remaining two years of former Sen. Johnny Isakson's term.
If Ossoff and Warnock both prevail, the Senate will be evenly split, with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the deciding vote as president of the Senate in any tie, giving the Democrats control of the chamber starting on Jan. 20.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.