Will Trump eclipse Ryan agenda?


Speaker Paul Ryan this week will begin rolling out an election-year agenda for House Republicans in what his team is branding as “A Better Way.” 

But that agenda is at risk of being overshadowed by Donald Trump, the party’s polarizing standard-bearer with a reputation for going his own way.

{mosads}In recent days, the celebrity businessman has dominated the airwaves by arguing that a federal judge presiding over a case against Trump University cannot be impartial because “he’s a Mexican.”

And even when Trump isn’t making controversy, it tends to follow him wherever he goes. 

His rally last week in the Hispanic-heavy city of San Jose, Calif., was marred by violent clashes as anti-Trump protesters sucker punched, kicked and egged supporters of the candidate. Video and photographs of the bloodied and battered Trump supporter went viral on social media.

“I doubt we will break through,” lamented one House Republican who’s in a competitive race this fall.

“Having an agenda isn’t exactly like inventing the light bulb or the smartphone,” added a second GOP lawmaker, who is close to House GOP leadership. “It’s something that people expect us to have.”

“It will be hard,” added another of Ryan’s GOP colleagues. The House agenda “gives us something to run on in our districts. But all the conversation will center on the parts of our agenda Trump incorporates and talks about.” 

And that’s if Trump chooses to adopt any of Ryan’s agenda at all.

For several weeks, the Speaker — the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican — had resisted endorsing Trump over doubts about the Manhattan billionaire businessman’s tone and conservative bona fides. But the Wisconsin Republican jumped on board Thursday, saying that Trump had assured him he would help turn many of the House GOP’s policies into law.

“It is clear to me that we have somebody who is a willing partner in advancing these things. And I know for darn sure Hillary Clinton is going to go in the opposite direction on every one of these things,” Ryan said Friday in an interview with radio station WISN in Milwaukee.

Starting Tuesday, House Republicans will do their best to nudge their way into the media spotlight. The Speaker, several committee chairmen and other rank-and-file GOP lawmakers will unveil a number of measures focused on fighting poverty, the first of six policy planks that make up Ryan’s “A Better Way” agenda.

They’ll do so at a faith-based nonprofit in the heart of Anacostia, one of Washington, D.C.’s historically African American neighborhoods. A protege of anti-poverty crusader Jack Kemp, Ryan is trying to ensure the GOP is seen as an inclusive and compassionate party, especially as Trump’s controversial statements and policies have alienated a number of groups including Hispanics, Muslims, women and people with disabilities.

At the House of Help City of Hope nonprofit, Republicans will make the case that the trillions of federal tax dollars spent on anti-poverty programs in recent decades have yielded poor results. They say they want to reform safety net and educational programs so that they’re more effective and accountable, and help move people in poverty into the middle class.

On Thursday, Ryan and House lawmakers will unveil their national security plank at the Council on Foreign Relations, just a block from the White House. The four other planks — focused on healthcare, tax reform, reducing regulations and restoring the Constitution — will be rolled out later this month.

Ryan first announced the agenda project at the joint House-Senate GOP retreat in Baltimore last January. Just months on the job, the Speaker aimed to give congressional Republicans a set of policy prescriptions they can run on, not unlike Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” during the 1994 midterms.

Ryan is also applying some lessons from his short stint as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012. By the time of the GOP nominating convention that August, Ryan complained that there was too little time to draft a party agenda. 

With “A Better Way,” he hopes to give Trump and other Republicans a head start. 

For House Republicans, the agenda is suppose to dominate the weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in downtown Cleveland on July 18. 

But it’s anyone’s guess how the unconventional and unpredictable Trump might use his media megaphone now that he’s locked in the high-profile endorsements of the two top Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) squirmed through the opening week of his book tour, openly fretting that the man he had endorsed for president could cause lasting damage to his party’s relationship with Hispanics. And just a day after throwing his support behind Trump, Ryan rebuked the nominee for his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is of Mexican descent but was born in Indiana. 

Trump’s logic was “out of left field,” Ryan told a local radio station.

Still, some House Republicans insist that that they will be able to pivot to the Ryan agenda when voters or reporters ask them about the Trump controversy du jour.

Several of Ryan’s aides noted that the hashtag #ABetterWay was trending on Twitter on Friday, a day after Ryan made a big splash and endorsed Trump.

“Speaker Ryan’s comments on Donald Trump’s nomination have elevated the House Republican agenda,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), an early Trump backer, said the newly forged Ryan-Trump partnership would deliver the White House to Republicans this fall.  

“It now gives us a winning combination,” Reed told The Hill. “Real thought leaders in the House like Paul Ryan and myself who can develop a strong policy foundation upon which the deal-making skills of Donald Trump can be added to get something done for the American people.” 

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video