Ryan declines to weigh in on Cruz citizenship

Ryan declines to weigh in on Cruz citizenship
© Greg Nash

BALTIMORE — Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.) said he didn’t watch the GOP presidential debate Thursday night and declined to offer his opinion about whether Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE (R-Texas) is eligible to run for president.

Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother, quarreled during the debate with GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who has repeatedly raised questions about Cruz’s eligibility. A Texas attorney filed a lawsuit saying Cruz doesn’t meet the constitutional requirement that a presidential candidate must be a “natural born citizen.”

“You think I’m going to comment on that stuff?” an exasperated Ryan said Friday at the final news conference of the joint House and Senate GOP retreat in Baltimore. “I don’t know. We’re not worried about that.”

Told that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the party's 2008 presidential nominee, has said Cruz’s eligibility should be examined, Ryan replied: “I haven’t it given a second’s worth of thought.”

Flanked by his leadership team, Ryan told reporters that the three-day “issues” retreat marked the beginning of an aggressive agenda congressional Republicans will offer in 2016. The goal: to paint a contrast with Democrats in an election year. The agenda will focus on five areas: national security, jobs and economic growth, healthcare, poverty and opportunity, and constitutional issues.

“Starting today, we will begin developing a bold, pro-growth agenda to take to the country,” said Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick in 2012. “By giving the people a clear choice in 2016, we can earn a mandate to do big things in 2017 and beyond.”

Many are expecting a protracted battle for the GOP nomination this year because of the large field of candidates. So the new Speaker wants a Republican agenda in place before voters pick a standard-bearer in Cleveland in July. To wait until summer might be too late, Ryan said.

“I expect that we will have a complete agenda by the time that we have a nominee,” Ryan said. “Look, this is nothing short of a generational-defining moment that we are in. The country is crying out for solutions; the country is crying out to be unified; the country is crying out for a positive vision that brings us all together.

“We want a confident America, and now is time to get to work.”