April 12, 2017 at 12:51 PM
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will lead a bipartisan delegation to Europe next week, his office said Wednesday, to meet with leaders of key NATO allies including Estonia, a nation seen to be on the front lines of Russian aggression toward the West.
It will be the second foreign trip that Ryan (R-Wis.) has made as speaker, following a visit to Israel a year ago.
During the trip to the United Kingdom, Norway, Poland and Estonia, the delegation will "meet with government officials and military leaders to review and discuss evolving security threats facing Europe as well as opportunities for greater economic cooperation," Ryan's office said.
It will come at a moment when U.S. tensions with Russia have been newly inflamed by President Trump's decision to strike a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally.
Estonian leaders have been particularly concerned about Russian aggression at their front door, including reports of airspace incursions and naval exercises conducted by the Russian military, and Trump's conciliatory campaign stance toward Russia have only aggravated those concerns.
Joining Ryan will be two House committee chairmen, Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) of the Financial Services Committee and Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) of the Armed Services Committee, as well as Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), and Brian Mast (R-Fla.).
Citing security concerns, Ryan's office declined to shared a detailed itinerary but said that Ryan would make a public appearance next Wednesday in London to "speak about the critical role that the United States and United Kingdom play in promoting regional and global stability, new opportunities for trade and economic partnerships, and the enduring importance of the special relationship between our two counties, particularly following the recent initiation of the Article 50 process."
Last year, Ryan was among the first senior U.S. officials to call for a bilateral trade agreement with the U.K. following the country's decision to leave the European Union. British officials formally invoked the separation process, established under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, last month.
Another congressional delegation, led by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), met with officials with two other NATO allies, Italy and Portugal, this week.
The multiday trip comes during a two-week recess scheduled around the holidays of Passover and Easter. As the House broke last week, GOP leaders held out the possibility that lawmakers could be called back early to vote on a major health-care bill. While health-care talks brokered by the White House continue, multiple people involved said this week, Ryan's travel plans would indicate that no immediate breakthrough is expected.