Ryan, Bannon strike surprising truce

Ryan, Bannon strike surprising truce
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Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE and Stephen Bannon are getting along.  

In meetings at Trump Tower and on Capitol Hill, the House Speaker and senior adviser to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE have embarked on a surprising collaboration, top aides say, sketching out a plan for tax reform that could be among the next president's first major legislative achievements. 

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, met last week in his office with several Trump aides. Over an Italian dinner, Ryan discussed the House GOP’s reform plan with Bannon, as well as Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, incoming White House policy director Stephen Miller and Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin.

This budding relationship has surprised and delighted members of Trump’s incoming administration, which has otherwise been dogged by reports of infighting. And it offers hope to Republicans worried that a feud between the two men would spell disaster for the party's agenda.

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told The Hill that Bannon and Ryan have been able to move beyond their bitter past and find compromise in conservative economic principles.

"Their shared brain power and shared resolve are a large part of why significant tax reform will be done sooner rather than later in a Trump administration," Conway said.

"There is collaboration—no confrontation—and a shared purposefulness where differences once existed."

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Ryan and Bannon had more acrimony to overcome than many work partners.

Bannon talked of wanting to destroy the Speaker when he headed Breitbart News. The political outsider oversaw the news outlet’s sustained attacks against Ryan, as well as an effort to have him ousted from Congress by supporting Ryan’s long-shot 2016 primary opponent. 

Ryan represented the kind of establishment Republican that Bannon has made a career of vilifying. A Midwest Republican who has long been a free trade advocate, Ryan frequently ran afoul of Bannon and Breitbart for a perceived lack of conservative bona fides.

Bannon often referred to Ryan as “the enemy” and wrote in emails that he wanted the young Speaker removed from power.

The election changed all that. Thanks to Trump’s victory, Ryan and Bannon will have to work together to implement the new president’s agenda. 

And on tax reform, the two have made a definite connection.

Trump and Ryan’s top aides say the two men’s shared interest in spreadsheets, modeling and forecasting has produced an unlikely alliance that has generated excitement in conservative circles over the forthcoming GOP tax overhaul.

A senior House GOP leadership aide told The Hill that it’s in the political interests of both men to build trust and a good working relationship, particularly in the early days of the Trump administration, which has thrown Washington powerbrokers off balance and produced strange new alliances.

“We've always had communication and personal interaction between our senior House leadership and senior leadership with Trump, and that includes Steve Bannon," the GOP aide said. 

The Speaker has “shown a willingness to work with everyone on the Trump team in terms of achieving what our joint goals are,” the aide continued. “We all need to work together to achieve our joint policy goals.”

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, “We look forward to working closely with President Trump and his senior leadership team to produce results for the American people.”

Part of the surprise in Bannon and Ryan’s working relationship is the vehemence with which Breitbart News went after the Speaker — sometimes on personal terms.

The website suggested Ryan was a hypocrite for sending his children to a Catholic school that offers tuition discounts to parishioners, contrasting the school’s position with Ryan’s opposition to Trump’s proposed religious test for Muslim immigrants.

On his radio show, Bannon mocked Ryan for “rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.”  

Ryan became a target for his initial hesitancy to endorse Trump; for announcing his opposition to some of Trump’s more controversial proposals, like the Muslim immigration ban; and for saying he would focus on defending the House majority instead of boosting Trump after the then-candidate's comments about sexually assaulting women.

Breitbart also has run stories assailing Ryan’s “failing” Speakership and has cast him as a Democratic sympathizer.

Bannon severed his ties with the news organization in August to become Trump’s campaign CEO, although he remains close to many Breitbart figures and sat for an interview with the outlet’s radio show in late December.

And the attacks on Ryan from Breitbart have not ended with Bannon’s departure.

After the election, Breitbart published a lengthy story headlined: “He’s with her: Inside Paul Ryan’s months-long campaign to elect Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE president.” The story ran with an image of a grinning Ryan next to Clinton campaign slogan “I’m with her.”

“Ryan will not get amnesty for his actions against the conservative movement and the American people,” a source familiar with Breitbart’s internal deliberations told The Hill in November. 

There is pressure on Trump and Ryan to work together now that Republicans control the executive and legislative branches. But there are policy differences that could make the partnership difficult.

The incoming Trump administration is girding for battle with House GOP leaders on several fronts. Potential flashpoints include a Trump-backed infrastructure bill that could reach $1 trillion, entitlement reform, and a “border adjustment” measure that Trump opposes but GOP leaders view as a necessary alternative to his import tariffs.  

Still, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer stressed cooperation.

“I think our entire team, as well as House Republicans and Senate Republicans, are working vigorously together at every level, from the principles to senior staff, to enact the agenda Donald Trump has articulated to the American people,” Spicer told The Hill.