Ryan hopes for ‘common ground’ with White House

Greg Nash

New Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanShutdown risk grows over Flint Senate poised to override Obama veto Reid to media: Call Trump a racist MORE accepts that there’s going to be disagreements with the White House but said in an interview broadcast late Sunday that he and President Obama can nonetheless find “common ground” on a handful of issues.

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In an interview taped in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., Ryan (R-Wis.) indicated on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he is hoping to move past the bitter partisanship that has defined the last few years in Washington.

“Somewhere in this we got into impugning people's character and motives if we didn't like their ideas,” Ryan said. “We got to get back to just debating ideas.”

“You know, we have two ears and one mouth,” he added. “We got to use those in that proportion.”

It remains to be seen whether Ryan’s turn atop the often contentious House Republican Conference will mark a break from the bitter battles of the last few years.

When he was elected to the post in October, Ryan pledged he'd be “wiping the slate clean.” Yet soon after, he had harsh words for the Obama administration’s agenda on immigration, stoking fears of renewed partisan bickering.

“I think wiping the slate clean was about wiping the slate clean in Congress and getting Congress, the House functioning again,” Ryan insisted on “60 Minutes.”

In particular, he pointed to recent congressional efforts to pass a highway funding bill and a federal budget and appeared optimistic about the odds of major tax reform. Taxes have been a priority of Ryan, who left his seat as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee to take over the gavel as Speaker.

“Look, if we can find common ground, we can on highways, we will on funding the government, hopefully we can on tax policy — those are three things that will produce certainty in this economy in the next few months,” Ryan said. “Let’s go do that.”

Ryan has yet to publicly meet with President Obama but said on “60 Minutes” that he has spoken with the president “a number of times” since he became Speaker less than three weeks ago.

The two men discussed “things that we have to get done by the end of the year,” Ryan said, as well as “courtesy issues.” They also bonded over having teenage daughters, Mitt Romney’s former running mate claimed.

Those daughters are part of the reason why Ryan was at first reluctant to take up the gavel as Speaker, following former Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRepublican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare The disorderly order of presidential succession MORE’s (R-Ohio) abrupt resignation.

“Our kids are ten, 12 and 13 years old,” he said on CBS, in a rare interview alongside his wife, Janna.

“It's mostly an empty-nester that gets this job who spends his or her weekends flying around America fundraising. I'm not going to spend my Saturdays and Sundays flying around America fundraising.”

Janna Ryan said that she initially opposed the idea of the 45-year-old becoming Speaker when she got a call from him while in the parking lot of the Janesville Salvation Army.

“It seemed like the pressure for him to travel, to be in so many places, to be so much to so many people would leave too little of him for his role as father and husband,” she said.

Only after realizing he could redesign the role to continuing sleeping on a cot in his office and flying home every weekend, Ryan said, did he relent to becoming Speaker.

“Now that I'm doing it I feel it's a great honor,” Ryan said. “I'm actually excited about it.”