Paul Ryan, the GOP's Idea Man, Calls for Bold New Ideas
Policy + Politics

Paul Ryan, the GOP's Idea Man, Calls for Bold New Ideas

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters

In what was billed as a major address at the Library of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) called for a GOP plan to create a “confident America at home and abroad.” The details of that plan, however, still need to be filled in.

Related: Ryan’s Next Big Challenge: Prevent Another Government Shutdown

Ryan knows what he wants, at least in broad strokes: “Our number-one goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda,” said Ryan.

The objectives include creating jobs, raising wages and preserving Medicare and Social Security, themes Ryan touched on when he accepted the speaker’s gavel a month ago.

He called for a simplified tax code, a pet project he had to forego as chair of the Ways and Means Committee chair to become speaker.

The most urgent matter, though, is “to actually repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Ryan checked most of the expected conservative boxes in the speech, saying lawmakers should reform welfare to stop “trapping people in poverty” and transform the Defense Department into a “21st century military.” But he failed to provide much by way of new ideas for how to reach the GOP’s long-cherished goals.

Related: Congress Finally Passes a $300 Billion Highway Bill

Ryan also gave himself a back door if none of the proposals actually materialize.

“We are not going to solve all the country’s problems next year,” he said. “We need a new president. It’s just that simple. But even if we can’t move mountains, we can make moves in the right direction.”

Ryan has been on a roll since being elected to replace John Boehner. Rank-and-file members, including many in the far-right House Freedom Caucus, have largely endorsed his leadership, especially on the recent $305 billion transportation bill and his ongoing efforts to avoid a government shutdown next week. And so far, he’s done better bridging the gap between Democrats than his predecessor did.

Still, Ryan chided Democrats several times, and may find more resistance going forward.

Related: Paul Ryan Flexes His Conservative Muscles in Contrast to Boehner

“For a long time, the left has thought that if you want to solve a problem, you get a group of highly trained experts to come up with an answer and impose it on the country,” Ryan said. “Nowadays, most of us would agree that’s the last thing you should do. The world moves just too fast. Government is always a step behind. So oddly enough, it is the progressives who are stuck in the past.”

He also said Democrats “may be good at tactics. But tactics are not solutions.”

The partisan jabs didn’t go unnoticed, as a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) panned the speech.

"Speaker Ryan said nothing new today – only more of the same, tired Republican plans to empower the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of seniors, children and working families. These are the same brazen special interest giveaways that have defined the Ryan budgets for years,” Drew Hammill said in a statement.