President Obama and Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanIf Democrats want to take back the White House start now GOP grapples with how to handle town halls Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Wis.) are jockeying for position in this fall’s fight over funding the government.
Ryan, who has vowed that Republicans will pursue a bolder conservative agenda under his leadership, signaled Tuesday he’s unwilling to bend to White House demands that the funding bill be free of conservative riders meant to control government spending.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest countered with a warning that the fight could quickly end Ryan’s honeymoon as Speaker.
“My suspicion is that Speaker Ryan doesn’t want to preside over a government shutdown six weeks after getting his new job,” he said.
Washington faces a Dec. 11 deadline to approve legislation preventing a government shutdown. That task was made much easier by a deal negotiated by former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), which sets a $1.07 trillion top-line spending figure for the next fiscal year.
Lawmakers must still approve legislation that specifies how that money will be spent, however, and Ryan faces demands from conservative lawmakers to attach policy riders, such as one to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
“I think you’re going to see that,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who was tapped to launch a special committee investigating Planned Parenthood, told The Hill.
Fights over government shutdowns have been good politics for Democrats, who are happy to portray Ryan and the GOP as risking a federal closure.
They’ve already started talking again about a potential shutdown, and on Tuesday Obama met with top Democratic appropriators Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.).
“Democrats will stand strong and united against poison pill riders,” they said in a joint statement.
Some hard-line conservatives are signaling a willingness to give Ryan room to maneuver.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who frequently caused headaches for Boehner, said there needs to be a honeymoon period to allow Ryan to put his team together.
Conservative freshman Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), a Baptist minister, called it important to attach a Planned Parenthood rider to the spending bill but said it wouldn’t be a deal breaker.
“Those are some of the things you want to follow through in making your promises, like the full repeal of ObamaCare, to do your best to defund Planned Parenthood,” Walker said. “As a member of Congress, you want to put every energy and effort into doing so. Yet sometimes … as far as the greater good of our conference, we want to be sensitive to that as well.”
Still, King said Republicans need to begin a discussion about what demands to place on the spending bill.
“The question is this: Do we challenge the president on anything? If we do, Dec. 11 is the time to do it,” King told The Hill. “One thing that Paul understands is you have to win the argument first before you win the vote, and that debate and discussion needs to happen very shortly if there’s going to be that kind of challenge and confrontation.”
Ryan himself tamped down expectations that Planned Parenthood could be defunded during this year’s appropriations process, saying in a Sunday interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that the fight may have to wait until Obama leaves office.
“I think we need to be very clear about what it is we can and cannot achieve and not set expectations that we know we can’t reach given the constraints of the Constitution,” he said.
The spending fight could have important implications for next year, when the White House will likely look to Ryan for support on bipartisan priorities such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and a criminal justice reform bill.
“It is too early to tell at this point about whether or not he will follow through on the promise he has made to try to change the way the House of Representatives conducts their business,” Earnest said of Ryan. “In order to do business in a different way, it means someone like Speaker Ryan is going to have to be open to some compromise.”