Ryan Warns: Don’t Blow This Opportunity

With executive and legislative branches in GOP hands, house speaker urges bold action

A giddy Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), fresh off his re-election as speaker of the House, urged his fellow Republicans to aim high as they kick off the 115th Congress.

Ryan noted the historical rarity of having a Republican president at the same time the party also controls both houses in Congress. It last happened under George W. Bush. Before that, it last occurred during Dwight Eisenhower’s first term as president.

“This is the kind of thing that most of us only dreamed about. I know, because I used to dream about this a lot.”

Two-thirds of Republicans in Congress never have served under a Republican president.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ryan said. “This is the kind of thing that most of us only dreamed about. I know, because I used to dream about this a lot. The people have given us unified government.”

Ryan said Americans have handed the reins of power to the GOP not out of generosity but a desire for results.

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“How could we live with ourselves if we let them down?” he said.

Ryan noted he assumed the speakership in 2015 promising to restore “regular order” to the business of the House. He cited some successes, including bills to promote cures for diseases, solve the opioid crisis, and improve mental health. Those initiatives bubbled up from the committees, Ryan said.

The speaker acknowledged, however, that the House under his leadership still has not been able to pass separate spending bills under the normal process to fund the government.

The rest of Ryan’s address to the House was filled with platitudes. He promised to always respect the minority opposition, even during vigorous disagreements over policy. He praised the “silent and peaceful transfer of power” that is following a contentious election.

“There is no sense of foreboding in this House today,” he said. “There is only potential. It kind of reminds you that no matter how long you’ve been here, you haven’t seen it all.”

Ryan asserted every member of Congress shares a “deep and abiding love” for America.

“I don’t care what your party is,” he said. “Find one person in this House who doesn’t want the best for America. Find one person in this House who does not want to see help given to the unemployed, or care for the sick, or education for the young, or honor the troops.”

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Ryan has an ambitious agenda that includes repealing the Affordable Care Act and overhauling the tax system. On many issues, House Republicans will find common ground with Trump. But a snafu over a proposed rule change gutting the independent Office of Congressional Ethics shows it will not be all smooth sailing. Republicans backed off the plan after Trump criticized it in a tweet.

For now, though, feelings and expectations among Republicans on Capitol Hill are running high.

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