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

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

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow this year’s freshmen can save the Congress — and themselves Democrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters Amazon fleeced New York, Virginia with HQ2 picks MORE (R-Wis.) said Monday he has personally observed that Republican voters are more energized following the brutal fight over Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race Graham set to take over Judiciary Leverage the new US International Development Finance Corporation to compete with China 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 TrumpMia Love pulls ahead in Utah race as judge dismisses her lawsuit Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey Trump congratulates Kemp, says Abrams will have 'terrific political future' 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 CollinsMcConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Senators introduce bill to respond to Khashoggi killing 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."