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Ryan sees common ground with president on trade

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February 23, 2015 | comments

By Bill Guida, Kenosha News

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Monday as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee his top goals include finding common ground with President Barack Obama.

“I plan on rolling out ideas how we can do things differently ... I need to show how I can do that, not just talk about it,” Ryan said.

During a visit to the Kenosha News, Ryan, R-Wis., cited trade promotion as the one area where he already has some agreement with Obama and therefore the greatest likelihood for bi-partisan action to position the U.S. as the most powerful player in the international arena.

Noting “90 percent of consumers” live in countries outside the U.S., Ryan said called trade promotion a key to driving the country’s economy from the standpoint of employers, employees and the U.S. as a whole.

“The goal is accessing those markets ... Either we write trade agreements, or China does. That’s why I agree with President Obama on this,” Ryan said. “Either China leads, or we do.”

Because jobs producing goods for export typically offer workers higher pay than those producing items for domestic buyers, it’s paramount for the White House and Congress to develop a trade promotion authority bill in tandem, Ryan added.

Another area where Ryan saw potential for coming together is reforming corporate and small business tax structures. He likes Obama’s call for lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. That’s designed to be more appealing for U.S. corporations to bring their operations and investments back from overseas. But, Ryan said, that must be accompanied by lowering tax burdens on small businesses, which are often taxed at personal income rates, which can go significantly higher than the corporate rate..

He pointed out only 20 percent of American and 10 percent of Wisconsin businesses are corporations. “You can’t just help corporations. You’ve got to help these other businesses,” Ryan said.

His focus moving forward will be looking for how to “fix problems in front of us right now.” Those include not only trade and tax reforms, but repairing the Highway Trust Fund as gas taxes decline because vehicles are more fuel-efficient.

Ryan said some may find it ironic that congressional Republicans strongly oppose Obama on immigration reform but support his call to develop a strategy for dealing with ISIS. However, he said, the difference is Obama acted on his own regarding immigration but came to Congress seeking to develop an agreeable and effective military strategy for ISIS.

“We need a comprehensive strategy on ISIS,” Ryan said.

Meanwhile, discussing subjects like the Affordable Care Act, popularly called “Obamacare,” Ryan acknowledged the president brought the proposal to Congress, which then enacted it as law. Still, Ryan said, “I hate it. I think it’s a terrible bill.” To that end, he said, that is something he wants to repeal and replace with legislation that is more affordable, offers more choices and better care.

One thing Ryan vowed not to do. That is being a vocal critic of programs and policies without working to put forward workable alternatives.

“I’ll take a step in the right direction if I can’t take a leap in the right direction. I can leap later,” Ryan added, saying bipartisan solutions are probable for some things but unlikely for others, at least in the short term.

“There are things that are deadline driven that will force us to work together because we have to,” he said.