BALTIMORE — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) vowed Friday to have a “complete agenda” in place by the time that Republicans have settled on a presidential nominee, as GOP lawmakers concluded a three-day retreat here that was designed to forge some unity and consensus in a caucus that has been bitterly divided for several years.
With a presidential primary that appears to be headed for several months of infighting, Ryan outlined five points in the party’s platform where House Republicans will try to place their mark, both for the eventual nominee and for their congressional candidates in the fall elections.
“I expect that we will have a complete agenda by the time that we have a nominee,” Ryan told reporters at the press conference wrapping up the time in Baltimore.
Ryan continued to deflect questions about the layer of details that would be in the agenda, not even promising that it would be crafted in legislative language. However, the five points Ryan will focus on are national security, the economy, health care, fighting poverty and upholding the principles of the Constitution.
The last item is a nod to the far-right conservatives in the caucus, who have voiced the most concern about President Obama’s use of executive orders to get around legislative stalemates on Capitol Hill on issues ranging from immigration enforcement to gun control.
Afterward, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who in 2010 led a GOP task force that produced a detailed 21-page platform called the “Pledge to America” — declined to say whether the new agenda would be produced in that form. Instead, it’s possible that each issue may have its own rollout.
But Ryan promised it would be a specific policy outline, despite the caucus’s inability to forge consensus for years on complicated issues, such as alternatives to the Affordable Care Act. “Believe you me, the people of this country will know who we are and what we stand for when this is done, and they will be given a choice in 2016,” Ryan said.
Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, has said that one of his main lessons from that failed campaign was that there was no real agenda for the general election, that presidential nominee Mitt Romney spent all his energy winning the primary and then created an agenda on the fly.
A protege of the late Jack Kemp, a leading economic conservative during the Reagan era, Ryan believes that part of Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential campaign came from being able to quickly adopt some of the policy positions that Kemp and other House Republicans had been advocating once he secured the party’s nomination.
However, when it came to the actual GOP presidential campaign this year, Ryan repeatedly refused to answer any questions about the boisterous race. He even told reporters that he did not watch Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate.
Ryan also declined to consider a question about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his eligibility to be president, deflecting a question that GOP front-runner Donald Trump has been repeatedly invoking. Cruz was born in Canada to a U.S. citizen mother and Cuban emigre father.
“I haven’t given it a second’s worth of thought,” Ryan said.