Ryan warns GOP inaction will 'depress turnout' in 2018
© Greg Nash

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) is warning that Republicans could face threats to their majorities in Congress next year if they can’t start fulfilling major campaign promises.

Ryan said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday that conservative voters might not be enthusiastic enough to turn out in the 2018 midterm elections if Republicans still haven’t accomplished things like repealing ObamaCare or enacting tax reform despite controlling the House, Senate and White House.

“If we don’t do our job we will depress turnout,” Ryan said. “I am frustrated as well.”

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Ryan sought to blame the Senate for the slow progress on the GOP agenda.

Before departing for the August recess last week, Ryan and the rest of his leadership team urged the GOP rank-and-file to tout bills the House has passed but haven’t made it through the Senate.

Those measures include unwinding parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, cutting off funds to sanctuary cities and providing $1.6 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Trump during the campaign. But none of those bills are expected to get enough votes to pass in the Senate, largely thanks to Democrats’ ability to filibuster.

“The problem isn’t having President Trump sign bills into law and it isn’t getting bills out of the House — the problem is getting these bills through the Senate,” Ryan said.

Yet Ryan also indicated frustration that Trump’s frequent controversies — often in the form of tweets — are overshadowing the House GOP agenda.

“We’re pretty frustrated with the slow pace of things [in the Senate], but in the House, we’ve actually done most of our agenda except for welfare reform and tax reform,” Ryan said. “There’s just been a lot of distractions out there, whether it’s Russia, or tweeting, or whatever.”

Russia came up during the interview when Ryan was asked about Trump’s tweet this week blaming Congress for the deteriorating U.S. relationship with the country. Ryan helped steer the passage of legislation limiting Trump’s ability to lift sanctions on Moscow that sailed through both chambers with veto-proof majorities.

Ryan defended the sanctions package, which also targets Iran and North Korea.

“We think Russia deserved the sanctions that we passed,” Ryan said. “Russia can improve our relationship if they stop meddling in our elections.”

The Speaker expressed optimism that Republicans would have more success with enacting tax reform than fulfilling their seven-year pledge to repeal and replace the healthcare law. The House narrowly passed its version in May, but the Senate GOP failed to pass its version of ObamaCare repeal in late July.

Ryan said he plans to introduce a tax-reform bill in September and get it through the House by the end of the year. That’s a less ambitious timeline than the White House offered this week.

“We had different opinions on how to advance healthcare reform,” Ryan said. “On tax reform, we’re largely in agreement.”

Lawmakers face a time crunch when they return from recess in September. They will have to find a way to avoid a government shutdown before funding runs out at the end of the month — and raise the debt limit.