He added, “I think it’s important that we actually discuss the principles we all share in common and the policies that come from them and get a good understanding on those. And that’s the kind of conversations we’re having.”
Ryan spoke less than a day after a Bloomberg report, citing unnamed “confidants,” suggested a Trump endorsement is imminent. He dismissed the report, and said the process of reconciliation continues: “Our staffs talk virtually every day. We’re having good conversations.”
He also declined to wade into Trump’s latest controversy — his criticism of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the chair of the Republican Governors Association, on Tuesday: “Look, I’ll just leave it at this: Susana Martinez is a great governor. She turned deficits into surpluses. She cut taxes. She’s a friend of mine, and I think she’s a good governor. I will leave it at that.”
Ryan has only grown more isolated within his party since his surprise declaration on May 5 — two days after Trump won the Indiana primary, clearing the GOP field — that he was “just not ready” to back the New York businessman, sharply criticizing Trump’s tone and populist agenda. “We don’t always nominate a Lincoln and a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln- and Reagan-esque,” he said in a CNN interview.
Ryan and Trump met a week later, prompting no endorsement but instead a joint statement that emphasized “many important areas of common ground” and “additional discussions” to come. But party leaders have continued to move, if grudgingly, toward Trump. Ryan is now the only high-level GOP leader in either congressional chamber not to be openly supporting Trump.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the House Republican Conference chairwoman, announced last week she had voted for Trump in Washington’s GOP primary while maintaining reservations about comments “made in the past and on the campaign trail this year about women; people with disabilities; and those from different backgrounds.”
Ryan’s briefing was meant to preview the coming release of a six-part House GOP agenda, one meant to serve as the basis for legislative action under a Republican president starting in 2017. The first piece, on combating poverty and expanding economic opportunity, would be delivered early next month, he said. But it was Trump’s potential status as that president that suffused the discussion of the agenda and Ryan’s dilemma over supporting him.
“We’re a big tent party with lots of different wings,” Ryan said. “We clearly come from different wings of the Republican party — there’s no two ways about that. The question is, if we’re going to unify, can we figure out what is the common foundation that ties all these wings together, and that’s what we’re working on.”
But what has made Ryan’s hesitation so profound is the gravity of the issues on which he does not believe he and Trump are simpatico — issues like the constitutional limits on executive powers, which is a focus of the agenda project. “We want to make darn sure that our standard bearer understands, appreciates and respects and supports the Constitution and the kinds of principles that come with it, and those are some of the conversations we have been having,” he said.
At another point, Ryan was pressed on whether the House was preparing plans for the mass deportation of illegal immigrants — a key plank of Trump’s platform. Ryan, who opposes mass deportation and supports a path to legal status for the undocumented, noted that immigration is not part of the agenda project. Issues like trade and immigration that were cleaving the presidential field months ago were deliberated left out of the agenda project, in lieu of issues like health care, national security and regulation where GOP unity is easier to find.
“Obviously, securing the border is part of national security, we believe,” he said. “But I’ve made my view on [mass deportation] pretty darn clear, and I’ll just leave it at that.”