Fresh from shepherding a $1.1 trillion government spending bill and another measure that extended $650 billion in tax cuts through the House over the objections of conservatives, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Sunday identified a select few policy areas he thinks he can work on with President Obama.
Criminal justice reform "is one of those areas that we've talked about getting things done,” Ryan said during an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press. He said that besides meeting at the White House Christmas party and a couple of phone calls, the two haven’t had a formal sit-down yet, however the president invited him to have a meal after the New Year.
Ryan said other areas of agreement might include the Trans-Pacific Partnership, though he confessed he hasn’t read all of the sprawling trade deal’s more than 2,000 pages. Returning to “regular order” on the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government so that lawmakers can tackle them one at a time, rather than having to cobble a massive, must-pass funding measure is another potential agreement.
That might not sound like a sexy issue to take on, but if Congress, which will be out most of next year, with only 111 legislative days slated for the House can get its act together before the end of the fiscal year, they can avoid chatter of government shutdowns that puts voters and markets alike on edge.
Ryan conceded that he and Obama “don't agree on much.”
“We see things very differently. I think what we will probably try to do is where we can get things done, where we can find common ground without compromising principles, get those things done. Make sure that government works. But we're going to have one heck of a contrast in 2016,” he said.
Ryan, who as a member once said an omnibus “equals a crap sandwich,” shrugged off criticism from conservative lawmakers and pundits that he gave too much away in the budget negotiations. “I don’t like the process, but it is the process I inherited,” he said. “Everybody knows that I walked into the Speakership seven weeks ago with this process already in place, with its cake already baked.”
Ryan touted “good wins” for conservatives in the budget deal, most notably lifting the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports. Other controversial issues, like defunding Planned Parenthood and scrapping Obamacare, will return early next year, he vowed.
"We will be able to get that on the president’s desk, because we found a way to get around the filibuster in the Senate,” according to Ryan. “So we are more effective in our Obamacare and Planned Parenthood policy, to zero those out. And that’s going to the president’s desk.”
What happens after 2016 is anyone’s guess, though, as Ryan, who required promises of support from far-right conservatives before agreeing to run for the Speakership, ducked questions about whether he would hold the gavel in 2017.
“I just haven’t been thinking about it,” he said. “I stepped into the breach, stepped up when I had a duty and an obligation to do so. I’m excited about the potential. I’m excited about the opportunity. I feel blessed and honored to have this position.”