Ryan sounds off after State of the Union
By Jon Brines, Kenosha News
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., expressed tepid criticism of President Barack Obama after this week’s State of the Union address, telling reporters on a conference call Thursday he hopes lame duck status changes Obama’s approach.
“He’s been a particularly partisan president, so he’s not the kind of president that it’s natural for him to look for the common ground, and I hope being a lame duck may change that,” said the 1st District congressman.
Ryan took issue with Obama’s executive order last month on immigration that he called “lawless” for being signed before the new Congress was sworn in.
“It was intentionally aimed at stoking a fight with the new Congress,” Ryan said. “He started the year by trying to pick fights with the new Congress, ignoring the signal from the voters in the last election. I don’t think that bodes well for creating a bipartisan atmosphere.”
Ryan said it’s too soon to tell if gridlock in Washington will wane, adding the president has the power to sign bills into law.
“He gave us four veto threats the other day. That’s not going dissuade us from passing bills we think are right,” Ryan said.
Ryan is looking ahead to issues that will be brought to a head later this year, including transportation funding and Medicare, trade and tax reform.
“(The president) made very good comments on trade,” Ryan said. “It’s in our interest to get good trade agreements. That’s an area we can make a difference and work together.”
On health care reform
Ryan said he’s “fashioning a response” that would be needed if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, when it takes a case dealing with its subsidies in June.
“We want to do more to advance affordable health care, and we have to be prepared for any changes the Supreme Court might make,” Ryan said.
The Republican-controlled House has tried to repeal the law 50 times with measures that died. The new Congress already advanced a bill to the Senate earlier this month that changes the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time work week from 30 to 40 hours.
On Kenosha casino, taxes
Locally, Ryan said he doesn’t want to get involved in issues in Madison but does believe “it’s in the governor’s best interest to make the Kenosha casino work for everybody. Get all the interested parties involved and make it beneficial for all.”
Ryan waved off calls to increase the federal motor fuel tax to shore up faltering federal transportation funding. With gas prices below $2 a gallon, national analysts believe lawmakers might have political cover to raise the tax above 18.4 cents per gallon — the rate set by Congress in 1993.
“We’re not going to allow the highway trust fund to shut down and road construction to just stop,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to raise the gas taxes.”
Ryan hopes tax reform, spending cuts and government revenue from more oil and gas exploration could be a solution.
“That’s an area many of us think is a win-win,” Ryan said. “Drill for oil on federal land and on the outer continental shelf. It helps us by lowering gas prices, increasing jobs in America and reducing dependency on other countries, while bringing more money into the highway trust fund.”
Seeking common ground
Ryan vowed to find common ground on issues with the president.
“The bottom line is we want more jobs, we want a healthy economy and we want to do what we can do get this economy growing and continue fiscal discipline,” Ryan said.