Paul Ryan discusses the President’s State of the Union proposals and the future of the GOP
CNN - The Lead with Jack Tapper
Jake Tapper: We’re coming to you live from Waukesha, Wisconsin, where we interviewed President Obama just a few minutes ago. More of that interview will air tomorrow on New Day and then on my show, The Lead, here at 4:00 tomorrow. We’re going to continue with our politics lead now though with a native son of the Badger State, Congressman Paul Ryan, who remains a rising star on the Right and a Republican power player. He now holds a slight lead in the latest polling for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. So how does he feel about the current administration’s vision for the year ahead? And joining me now exclusively with his reaction to the first portion of my interview with the President of the United States is Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He’s chairman of the House Budget Committee and the former Republican vice-presidential candidate for 2012, of course. Congressman Ryan, good to see you. I know we’re catching you at the House Republican Retreat. We appreciate your time. Tell us your response to President Obama’s new thrust – his new push for executive orders, executive actions. Of course, the announcement about what he’s doing tomorrow in terms of getting the 300 largest companies in the country to agree to a set of best practices so that the long-term unemployed are not discriminated against in hiring.
Paul Ryan: Well, clearly no one wants long-term unemployed to be discriminated against with respect to your first, original question there. There’s a difference between effectively using the bully pulpit to encourage good things in America and doing an end-run around Congress. Look, every time a president or a member of Congress is sworn in, they swear an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution. It sounds like to me, the president looks like he’s willing to circumvent the Constitution. Presidents do not write laws. That’s what Congress does. That’s Congress’s job. And if presidents try to circumvent Congress by writing their own laws, then he is circumventing the Constitution. That – that is not our form of government. So if there’s something he thinks should be changed in law, then he needs to make the case to Congress. He was in Waukesha today talking about job training. I wish he would’ve looked at the bill we have sitting over in the Senate called the SKILLS Act that we passed last year reforming our job-training programs to make it easier for people who want to work to get the skills they need to get the jobs that are out there. That’s what we’ve done in Wisconsin with a lot of our job-training reforms. That’s what our SKILLS Act bill does that’s sitting over in the Senate, and it’s as if we weren’t even part of this conversation, so that’s why a lot of us are frustrated.
Jake Tapper: So I understand the frustration with what theoretically he might do but have you heard from President Obama anything specifically in terms of the executive orders he’s talked about today here in Wisconsin or yesterday in terms of increasing the federal minimum wage for federal contract workers or what he said he’s going to do tomorrow in terms of getting businesses to commit to not discriminating against the long-term unemployed? Are any of those outside the realm of the Constitution in your view?
Paul Ryan: Well I think he’s already done that; that’s what’s concerning to us. In 2013, he did that in healthcare. He unilaterally waived and delayed the employer mandate. He unilaterally waived other mandates, which the law does not allow him to do. So he’s already shown that he’s prone to circumventing the legislative branch and abuse the powers of the executive branch with these executive orders. So he’s already shown that he’s willing to do that. So I see this as just more of the same.
Jake Tapper: You’re kind of a popular guy right now when it comes to Republicans and the speculation about 2016. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll puts you as the favorite among potential Republican candidates in a hypothetical 2016 match-up. Here’s what number two on that list – Jeb Bush, running right behind you – says about running…. I know you haven’t decided. You haven’t made any decisions. You haven’t sat down with your lovely wife and kids and talked about the decision, but do you think, theoretically, you could do it joyfully?
Paul Ryan: I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t do it joyfully. Yes, I’m a believer in the Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp school of politics which is inclusive, which is aspirational, appealing to people’s better selves, not preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and anxiety like a lot of people cynically do these days. But look I’m focused on one job right now. I’m focusing on solutions in 2014 because we have problems that need to be dealt with. I’m not closing my options, but I’m just not focused on that right now. It’s great – I feel good that some people like me in a poll. That and $3 gets me a cup of coffee as far as I’m concerned right now. Because right now we’ve got things to do in this Congress in 2014, so we shouldn’t be clouding our judgments as to how this helps us or what we’re going to do two years from now when Americans are hurting today – when there are things we can do to improve people’s lives, to get poverty addressed, to get joblessness addressed, to create more economic growth. That’s what I’m focused on right now, and I’ll worry about these things later at the appropriate time.
Jake Tapper: Among Tea Party supporters, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas tops the polls. There is a division within the Republican party. I don’t know how you would describe it. Some would describe it – some sympathetic to you would describe it as the bomb-throwers versus those who are interested in governing. I know the Tea Party supporters would describe it quite differently. Do these divides in the Republican Party worry you at all?
Paul Ryan: They really actually don’t, Jake. I am encouraged by the Tea Party because, look, as a person who has been authoring budgets – when I first rolled out my budget back in 2008, I had like something like eight or nine cosponsors. Now we’ve passed it three years in a row because of the Tea Party, because of the new members in Congress who came to make a difference here in Washington. So I think it’s been a very constructive force for good, for fiscal conservatism, for constitutionalism, for limited government, for free enterprise, opportunity. And look at what’s going on – we have a vibrant debate on ideas in our party. This is a good thing. This means that we are becoming the party of ideas again. I see this as nothing but a good thing. We may disagree from time to time on tactics, but we don’t disagree on the big picture. We don’t disagree on the outcome we want, which is a reinvigoration of the American idea – getting people out of poverty, back into work, improving people’s lives, renewing the vigor of this country -- which is the condition of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. And we want to break the boundaries of economic growth. We’re tired of settling with slow growth, high poverty, poor performance in America. And that is something we all agree on, and we may disagree tactically from here and there on how to get to that objective. But we share the same principles. We share the same objective. And we’re having a vigorous engagement of ideas and reforms on how best to achieve that. That’s a good thing.
Jake Tapper: I know one of the things that you're discussing probably very intensely behind closed doors at the House Republican retreat is the immigration-reform bill that I know you and Speaker Boehner really want to pass. That is an area that President Obama has signaled as a place where he thinks Democrats and Republicans can come together. It seems as though the big sticking point is a path to citizenship. Do you think there should be a path to citizenship in an immigration-reform bill, and can something like that pass the House?
Paul Ryan: This is among the debates or the conversations that we're having with ourselves today among our caucus on health care, job creation, debt reduction, and immigration. I do not think you should have a special path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrant. I’ve been pretty clear about that. This is why we're not going to take the Senate bill, and we're not going to engage in a process that could result in the Senate bill. That’s why the House has long said we're going to do it our way, and among the top concerns we have is security. Look, we started this interview with our concerns about executive orders and not enforcing the laws as written. That’s a big concern we have here with immigration. So the approach that people like me want to take is, it's not trust but verify. It’s verify and then trust. Verify that we have the border secure. Verify that we have interior support. Verify that we have the right rule-of-law reforms in place so we don't have this problem 10, 15 years down the road while we fix the broken legal-immigration system. And so those are the same principles that drive us. I’ve got my own set of ideas that I think ought to be a rule-based system, so we secure the border, interior enforcement while we fix and get people right with the law without producing amnesty or some special pathway. But we're going to have a conversation with ourselves in our caucus about how best to advance these things. We know immigration is America. Immigration is important for America, but it's also very important in this post- 9/11 environment that we know how people are coming and going in this county. That we have secured our borders. The cartels and drug smuggling and all these issues, we don't have security at our border, and we need to guarantee that that happens and that the president actually enforces the laws that Congress writes.
Jake Tapper: Congressman Paul Ryan, as always, thank you for taking the time out of the retreat to talk to us. We appreciate it.
Paul Ryan: You bet you. Have a good one.