Paul Ryan's step-by-step future starts with trade
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - First, give presidents the power to strike trade deals. Then overturn President Barack Obama's health care law, overhaul the tax code and rework the nation's welfare system. And someday? Perhaps a run for president.
Call it the New Ryan Plan, a map not just to changes in the nation's fiscal policy, but to Paul Ryan's future.
Step One of his plan: Shepherding the "fast track" trade bill that would give Obama the power to swiftly push the long-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and several others. The drive to pass the legislation puts Ryan in an oddball alliance: Working with the president who defeated Romney and Ryan three years ago - and against a bloc of conservatives for whom giving the Democratic president more power is anathema.
Ryan, the father of three young children, nixed the round-the-clock world of presidential campaigning this election cycle. As it is, he spends four days a week in Washington, sleeping in his office, and the other three at home in Janesville, Wisconsin, meeting with constituents and shuttling his kids to summer camp.
Also, there's this: The chairmanship of Congress' oldest committee is Ryan's happy place on Capitol Hill. He's called it his "dream job" - a phrase seldom, if ever, used to describe the vice presidency.
If Republicans remain in control of the House over the next six years, Ryan will remain chairman.
Beyond the trade bill, Ryan's ideas for replacing Obama's signature health care law, rewriting the tax code and overhauling the welfare system will have to wait for a new president, he says.
The trade bill, which the House could vote on Friday, is the only one of Ryan's four policy goals that stands a chance of becoming law during the Obama presidency, Ryan says. Republicans were scrambling for votes on Thursday while the administration was lobbying Democrats to back their president.
Ryan was making his pitch to his GOP colleagues.
Immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Wednesday he moved from leaning "no" to a solid "yes" after Ryan assured him that trade negotiations would include no changes to immigration policy.
"It's actually a significant benefit because it will prohibit the negotiation of immigration provisions of any kind in any trade agreement that's negotiated under the TPA," said King, who spoke for 10 to 15 minutes with Ryan during which time King spotted a raccoon heading out of his barn to prowl.
That led to a discussion of raccoon hunting and guns before they reached agreement on the trade bill, King said.
If the House backs the measure, Ryan will have passed a key test of leadership, set a standard for his chairmanship and added a solid credential to a resume that already includes House Budget chairman and a GOP spending blueprint. If it fails, he may have to start over.
"He takes on long-shot fights like Trade Promotion Authority not to advance his political prospects, but to advance his convictions about what is right for the country," Romney said in a statement to the AP.
Added the former presidential candidate: "Paul is an increasingly rare leader in Washington who is without guile, without ego, and without a consuming interest in his political future."
And Republicans, even those not enamored of Ryan's willingness to negotiate with Democrats, acknowledge that he is a viable leader of a party struggling to appeal to minorities, the middle class and women. Particularly chafing to these Republicans was Ryan's work with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in 2013 to strike a budget deal. The two became fast friends and playful rivals, with Ryan trash-talking Murray's Seattle Seahawks and Murray insulting Ryan's beloved Green Bay Packers.
"If he can pull (the trade bill) over the finish line, I think that's a feather in his cap," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., who served with Ryan in the House. "It's just going to be one more that maybe strengthens his leadership for another national run - which I'd like to see."