Ryan: 2016 is dress rehearsal for 2017

Ryan: 2016 is dress rehearsal for 2017
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBoehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (R-Wis.) said this weekend that the Republicans' agenda for 2016 will be designed, not to become law this year, but to showcase what the GOP would do if they win the presidency.


The Wisconsin Republican said the GOP's legislative wish-list has no chance of passing under President Obama. With that in mind, Republican leaders will use this year as a sort-of dress rehearsal for a time when the party controls the White House.

"This agenda's not going to be passed into law this year [with] Barack Obama as the president," Ryan said in an interview taped Friday with "Fox News Sunday." "So our goal here is not to simply just pass things and watch them go nowhere because we have a White House that doesn't agree with us. Our goal here is to say, 'Here is what we will do in 2017 if the country gives us the authority to do this.' And we're going to need a new Republican president.

"This will not be an agenda you can pass with a liberal progressive as president."

House and Senate Republicans huddled last week in Baltimore, Md., for their annual issues conference designed to craft a policy and messaging strategy to take them through the year. The Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but Obama's veto pen –– combined with the Democrats' filibuster powers and sharp divisions within the GOP –– have largely prevented the Republicans from moving their top priorities.

Complicating the equation for the GOP, a number of Senate Republicans are facing tough reelection bids this year, putting control of the chamber in play, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is under pressure to protect those vulnerable incumbents by avoiding tough votes ahead of November, even as Ryan is eying action on thorny issues like trade and tax reform.

This weekend, the Speaker said it's "way too soon to get into the specifics" of the GOP's policy agenda.

"We're going to be rolling this out in the spring before we eventually have a [presidential] nominee," he said.

But he rejected the notion that there's a strategy divide between the two GOP leaders, vowing a "bottom-up" process that all Republicans can unite behind.

"It's an agenda you can pass with a Republican president in 2017," Ryan told Fox's Chris Wallace, "and that's perfectly consistent with where the Senate Republicans are, as well."