Ryan: GOP base 'activated' and 'animated' by Kavanaugh fight

Ryan: GOP base 'activated' and 'animated' by Kavanaugh fight
© Anna Moneymaker

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism MORE (R-Wis.) said Monday he has personally observed that Republican voters are more energized following the brutal fight over Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughKamala Harris staffer mocks O'Reilly for saying Harris 'lost' his vote for president Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE's nomination to the Supreme Court.

“The Republican base is very much activated. I think the Democratic base was already there,” Ryan said after a speech to the National Press Club in Washington just 29 days before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

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“I’ve seen it traveling around the country in the last few days, traveling around Wisconsin," he added. "The Republican base is definitely animated after this.”

The Senate's confirmation vote capped a bitter, months-long partisan battle over Kavanaugh that included allegations of sexual misconduct that threatened to derail his nomination.

Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court associate justice shortly after Saturday's vote. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE will take another victory lap Monday night when he holds a swearing-in ceremony for Kavanaugh at the White House.

At the National Press Club, where Ryan made his first public remarks since Kavanaugh's confirmation, the Speaker was not asked about the three women who alleged sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh from when he was in high school and college — allegations that the judge has vehemently denied.

Instead, Ryan praised Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal MORE (R-Maine) for having the “right tone” and “right analysis” as she grappled with the misconduct accusations. In a dramatic floor speech, Collins announced on Friday that she would vote in favor of Kavanaugh, saying the account of the judge’s initial accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was not corroborated by anyone else.

Responding to other questions from reporters, Ryan would not rule out running for another political office after he retires from Congress in January: “Never say never.”

He also said there likely will be a funding fight over Trump’s border wall during the lame-duck session after the midterms, though he did not threaten a government shutdown over the issue.

“We intend on having a full-fledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border and we will have a big fight about it,” Ryan said. “We'll figure out how to do it December."

Short-term funding for various agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, expires on Dec. 7.

In his prepared remarks to the Press Club, Ryan made his closing arguments about why voters should stick with Republicans in November. He warned that putting Democrats in charge of Congress would lead to higher taxes, greater government intrusion and “more chaos.”

Democrats “have made it clear: Their only response to the noise in Washington is more disorder, more chaos. Outrage has become their standard operating procedure,” Ryan said in his speech. “Instead of offering an alternative during the debate over tax reform, they said it would lead to ‘Armageddon.’ Instead of welcoming or even acknowledging the benefits of tax reform, they dismissed it all as ‘crumbs.’ "

He went on to say that Republicans “want to make tax cuts for individuals and families permanent,” and that Democrats "want to repeal tax reform — and raise taxes on hard-working Americans.”

Later, the Speaker slammed Democrats’ single-payer health-care proposal as a “singularly bad idea.”

“It all brings to mind what Margaret Thatcher once described as the problem with socialism: ‘Eventually, you run out of other people’s money,’ ” Ryan said. “And it just shows how today’s Democratic Party has gone further left to the fringes, and further back to discredited ideas.” 

His appearance Monday may be Ryan’s last formal speech in Washington before the midterm elections — and one of his last as Speaker of the House. Ryan opted not to run for reelection after almost two decades in Congress, and will step down as Speaker shortly after the New Year.

Ryan highlighted another midterms message, one he has often repeated in the Capitol: Republicans have delivered on their promises over the past two years.

The economy is expanding, unemployment is at the lowest level in decades and Republicans passed historic tax cuts in 2017, Ryan said. The GOP-led Congress also fully funded the military, in addition to tackling issues such as sex trafficking, opioid addiction and veterans affairs reforms.

Those issues represent key pillars of Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda that he laid out two years ago as Republicans fought for control of Congress and the White House.

“This is the 'Better Way' we offered the country two years ago: going bold, staying focused on the things people actually care about, pursuing policies that will improve people’s lives,” Ryan said.

He also celebrated the Press Club's work in defending the First Amendment, and weighed in on Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and dissident who recently disappeared at a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi is a columnist at The Washington Post.
 
"I think it's very disturbing," Ryan said about his disappearance. "It's very unnerving. We just need to get the clear facts."