Source: POLITICO | by RACHAEL BADE
Ryan breaks with Trump — gently
01/13/17 12:07 AM EST
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday night offered the fullest accounting of his own thinking on the direction of the nation since the election, even gently breaking from President-elect Donald Trump on controversial policies from Russia sanctions to Medicare reform.
During a CNN town hall at George Washington University, Ryan also spelled out his own views on topics including immigration and health care. He suggested criminally convicted undocumented immigrants should be deported, but also assured one undocumented mother that she need not fret about being rounded up by a federal agents and taken away from her U.S.-born daughter.
Ryan announced that Republicans’ Obamacare replacement plan would include refundable tax credits to help Americans afford insurance, and he told a man who said he’d be dead if it weren’t for Obamacare that he won’t be locked out of the health care market because of his pre-existing condition.
At times, Ryan broke from Trump, albeit delicately so. The speaker made a full-throated call to reform Medicare, one of the biggest drivers of the nearly $19 trillion national debt. Less than a week ago, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Trump didn't want to "meddle" with the health program for seniors.
Ryan also said the U.S. needed to “step up our game” in countering Russia after the nation's interference in the election. Trump throughout the entire campaign defended Russia and cast doubt on intelligence findings alleging cyber-intrusions. His pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, refused during his confirmation hearing this week to commit to continuing Russia sanctions.
Ryan, however, didn’t hold back his scorn for Putin’s ploys.
“I think we have to step up our game on Russia with respect to confronting Russia when they act like this, when they frustrate our interests,” he said. “I do believe they tried to affect our elections…There is no place for that… I do think sanctions are called for.”
The town hall marked a different tone for Ryan, who's had only praise for Trump since the election after frequently criticizing him during the campaign. The two are opposites in many ways, Ryan representing the classical conservative point of view; Trump, an angry populism.
Ryan’s performance suggests, however, that he’s feeling comfortable enough now in his relationship with Trump to articulate thoughts at odds with the president elect's worldview. During press conferences in November and December, Ryan deferred many policy questions to the administration.
At one point during the roughly hour-long town hall, Ryan even joked about being the subject of Trump’s scorn on Twitter.
In one particularly emotional exchange, Ryan told an undocumented immigrant that she should not fear federal agents taking her away from her daughter, who was born in the U.S. and is therefore,a citizen. Trump has not yet said what he plans to do about the undocumented parents of children who were born in the U.S.; President Barack Obama took unilateral measures to shield them from deportation.
Ryan has been asked about the issue — a touchy one among conservatives — since the election but declined to answer until Thursday.
“I hope your future’s here,” he told the woman. “We have to find a way to make sure you can get right with the law and do this in a good way so the rug doesn’t get pulled out from under you and your family gets separated.”
The speaker later added: “If you’re worried about some deportation force knocking on your door this year, don’t worry about that.”
Trump had used the phrase “deportation force” on the campaign trail.
Ryan also would not commit to a top Trump request of Capitol Hill: that Republicans move quickly to help Americans afford child care, in part by allowing them to reduce such expenses from their tax bills. Trump officials on Thursday pressed the House Ways and Means Committee to commit to such relief. Ryan said it’s “too soon to say” what Republican lawmakers would do, while adding that the issue “on the table.”
To be sure, most of Ryan's policy prescriptions and comments were in line with Trump's. Ryan talked about how Obamacare was crumbling and assured the audience that Republicans have a plan to enhance competition and drive down prices.
“We’ve got to rescue people from this law and fix this law,” he said. “The worst is yet to come.”
Speaking to a woman who lost her son to a drunk driver who was an undocumented immigrant, Ryan said he and Trump “agree completely” on ending “sanctuary cities,” which, generally speaking, limit cooperation with the federal government in order to shield immigrants from deportation.
“There is no daylight on that,” he said off himself and Trump.
He then suggested that such cities may lose federal funds in the future, a policy approach Republicans have quietly been discussing on Capitol Hill: “Sanctuary cities are a violation of the rule of the law and are not to be tolerated. That means if you want federal assistance, you’re not going to get it; you’ve got to enforce the law."
Ryan also defended Trump against a dossier containing unsubstantiated claims that Trump has colluded with Russia in the campaign and that Moscow had obtained compromising information on him.
Ryan called the dossier “junk” and said he understood why Trump was so frustrated.
“I take issue with this even being talked about because it’s not even worthy of the media,” he said.
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Source: POLITICO | by RACHAEL BADE