Ryan seeks to put stamp on GOP in Trump era

Ryan seeks to put stamp on GOP in Trump era
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said he’s not ready to endorse Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE for president, even as the rest of House GOP leadership has gotten behind the presumptive GOP nominee.

“I don’t know where all this got from,” Ryan told reporters in his Capitol Hill office. “Look, I don’t have a timeline in my mind. And I have not made a decision.”

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Ryan offered the comments at a news event in his Capitol suite meant to preview the release of the House GOP’s agenda for 2017 — and put his own stamp on GOP politics.

The Speaker said the plans will be unveiled in six parts over the next month, which will help attract maximum media attention. It will focus on reducing poverty, strengthening national security, overhauling the tax code and reforming healthcare and the regulatory system. There will also be a section on constitutional authority.

Past Speakers have offered ambitious outlooks on their policy agenda, but the Ryan move is garnering increased interest given the unprecedented situation in his party.

Trump has all but secured the GOP nomination this fall, but Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in the land, has yet to endorse him.

The two men have stark differences on a host of issues, including international trade. Ryan was instrumental last year in winning congressional approval of fast-track authority, which prevents Congress from amending trade deals. Trump argues U.S. leaders have routinely agreed to bad international agreements that have cost the U.S. jobs.

Ryan criticized Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and has repeatedly knocked the tone of the business mogul.

On Wednesday, his office released a video in which Ryan decried the “bitterness” of politics in both parties.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” he said in remarks clipped from a speech he gave last month at Georgetown University.  

Ryan and Trump were scheduled to speak on the phone Wednesday night, and the Speaker repeatedly sought to downplay differences with the front-runner.

He said their staffs remain in contact “virtually every day,” and that Trump has been kept appraised of the House GOP agenda rollout.

“He’s familiar with what we’re doing. Our staffs have made sure they’re familiar with that,” Ryan said.

Ryan did not offer specifics on any input Trump might have on the House GOP agenda but downplayed any policy differences. 

“The point is, can we operate off of common principles and the basic policies that come from those principles? And that’s why we’re making sure that everyone’s well-informed with where we’re going so that we have a good understanding of each other,” he said.

Similar issues are likely to arise this July in Cleveland, where Republicans will build a party platform around their nominee.

Besides trade, Trump views out of step with traditional GOP positions include his defense of Planned Parenthood and his support for easing restrictions on Cuba. 

House Republicans began making plans in January to roll out a formal policy platform to turn to while running for reelection in the fall, long before Trump became the presumptive standard-bearer.

Signs of where the Trump-Ryan relationship stands are closely studied on Capitol Hill. Some believed news reports suggesting a Ryan endorsement was imminent were leaked by people in Trump’s orbit.

Asked whether that was a concern, Ryan insisted: “None of that stuff really gets to me.”

The first part of the House GOP agenda will be on reducing poverty and is set to be unveiled the week of June 6, when Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess.

Reducing poverty has been a point of focus for Ryan. Earlier this year, he hosted a summit with GOP presidential candidates in South Carolina about poverty in America. And while serving as House Budget Committee chairman in 2014, Ryan released a report about the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, a name given to legislative initiatives from Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

None of the items laid out in the platform are expected to turn into legislation considered on the House floor this year.

“This isn’t a legislative agenda for 2016 because Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris 'root causes' immigration plan faces challenges Have our enemies found a way to defeat the United States? Millennial momentum means trouble for the GOP MORE is president. That’s not going anywhere,” Ryan said.

The Speaker’s top two deputies, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), are both supporting Trump, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.).

The fourth-ranking House Republican, GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersBiden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban Latina lawmakers discuss efforts to increase representation CDC backtracks with new mask guidance MORE (Wash.), said last week that she voted for Trump despite having reservations about the real estate tycoon’s derogatory comments about women and people with disabilities. 

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first lawmaker to endorse Trump and the co-chairman of the campaign’s congressional outreach effort, expressed confidence that Ryan would eventually come on board.

“I’m getting good vibes coming both ways, that the meetings, the discussions, I think, reading the tea leaves, are going in that direction,” he said.

While Collins said he has “no problem with [Ryan] being deliberate in his due diligence,” he said that endorsing Trump in the coming weeks would help ease divisions in the party.

“The sooner the better, yes,” Collins said.