HH: Joined now by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan, Mr. Speaker, welcome back, great to have you.
PR: Hey, Mr. Hewitt, how are you?
HH: I’m good. I’m worried about the end times, though. The Brewers are in first place. Doesn’t that mean the end times are upon us?
PR: (laughing) You know, it was 1989, if I recall, since we had made it all the way through the pennant to the World Series. So we’re due.
HH: Yeah, you’re about as due as the Indians.
PR: Yeah, exactly. We could talk about the Browns if you want.
HH: Look, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. Well no, we’re going to Super Bowl LIII. That’s what we’re looking at. Rough couple of weeks after the American Health Care Act passed that obscured the effect there. How to get back on track, Mr. Speaker?
PR: Well, I think we are back on track. I mean, I think sure, it was a rough couple of weeks. I don’t obviously want to go through that again, but I actually am glad that we did, because what we went through here as a conference, as a Republican Congress, is we went through in a basically two or three month period the growing pains of going from being an opposition to being a governing party. And that meant, you know, working to get consensus with our own members to come together with a majority coalition to advance a huge agenda. And so I think that speaks well for showing how we have whipped ourselves into shape, because for the Obama years, we never had to come up with, you know, 218 to be proactive. We now have the White House, the House and Senate, and so this got us into a much better position as a governing party to show that we can put together a majority coalition to advance a very big agenda. And so the process was not as pleasant as you would like, but it was an important one, and it was very unifying for our members, and that’s what I’m pleased about.
HH: Now because of President Trump’s troubles, the mainstream media is out there blocking and tackling for ranking Minority Leader Pelosi suggesting a wave election is coming your way, that your majority is at risk. What do you make of that?
PR: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah is what I say about that stuff. Look, this is what I call the white noise of Washington-Beltway media. We’re busy doing our work. We’re busy, I mean, just this week, we moved law enforcement legislation with police week to give them the tools they need to keep us safe. We put new sanctions on Syria. We improved Will Hurd’s federal information technology reform legislation, which will streamline government. Ways and Means did hearings on tax reform. The Education Workforce Committee put a bill out to close the skills gap so that people can get technical education. Mack Thornberry is working on his 3rd installment of streamlining Pentagon bureaucracy and procurement reforms. Veterans Affairs approved 11 bills. I mean, I can keep going if you want me to, and the 14th Congressional Review Act was signed into law this week. Nobody did anything in the press about those things. This Congressional Review Act, where you rescind recent regulations, in this case, from the Obama legislation, this tool was used once in history rescinding regulations. We’ve done it 14 times in four months just this year alone. So that’s what we’re working on.
HH: All right, so let me ask you a couple of the key things.
HH: Do you have to revote the American Health Care Act as has been reported because of missing targets?
PR: No, we don’t think that’s the case. What we’re doing is very, very, you know, it’s just a technical non-issue, is what it is. It’s we’re just out of an abundance of caution, we’re waiting to send the bill to the Senate for the final CBO score. The CBO score basically has to be in deficit compliance, meaning it can’t produce a deficit. It has to save. And the last CBO score we had, it saved $150 billion dollars. The only change that we’ve made since that CBO score was an $8 billion dollar amendment. So, but we just want to, out of an abundance of caution, wait to send the bill over to the Senate when we get the final score. So we’re just basically being overly-cautious, but there’s really kind of a non-issue here.
HH: Second story alleged that you’re worried about tape recordings of leadership meetings. True or false?
PR: Well, that was, it was, I’ve never seen anything like this. There was somebody who taped a meeting a year ago where our Majority Leader cracked a joke, and then they released the tape of that joke out just a few days ago. And that’s a pretty bizarre thing to happen, so obviously that’s a cause of concern of ours.
HH: Do you believe it was Evan McMullin?
PR: I’m not going to speculate on who that is. That’s the name most people, you know, you hear about.
HH: All right, let me move on to tax reform. And I’m not going to make my monthly plea for you to leave the home mortgage interest deduction alone, or the state and local income tax deduction alone. I want to know about the corporate tax rate. The markets need this. Everybody knows we…
PR: Oh, don’t think I don’t know that. America needs this, Hugh. Let me just stop you right there.
HH: Yeah, I agree. I agree. But is it going to happen?
PR: We’ve got the highest tax rate in the world. We’re just kicking ourselves in the teeth. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot as a country. We are going to lower tax rates. We are going to do tax reform. It’s going to happen in 2017. Why? Because we know it has to happen. Every Republican agrees with this. Every Republican here agrees with this. That’s why we’re focused on it. What I want to tell you, Hugh, is yes, there’s a bunch of white noise out there in the media. But we are still doing our job. And so everybody talks about wave elections. It’s far too early to talk about politics. But I would say if we don’t keep our promises, then we’re going to have a problem. So what are we doing? We’re working on keeping our promises. We just passed repeal and replace in the House. We’re working on rebuilding our military. We are deep into our regulatory reform agenda. And we’re moving forward on our tax reform legislation. All of those are the things that we ran on that we said we would do to get this country back on track, and guess what? That’s exactly what we are doing.
HH: So to emphasize the point, a lot of people have said that the tax reform is in danger because of President Trump’s troubles. It can’t happen. You believe it will happen in 2017?
PR: Nope. Yes, yes, yes.
HH: All right.
PR: Emphatically. Look, if anything, it gets us more focused on doing our jobs, because we want the country to be assured that Congress is still working on solving their problems. What, look, what I worry is people are sitting in their homes, they’re turning on the TV, they’re turning on some morning show, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, and they think this is all Washington does, is focus on this stuff. That’s just not what’s going on. We are busy working on all of these issues.
HH: A couple of specifics. The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Defense, Granger, says that the $603 billion dollars top line is a ceiling. Now that might be the case, but there’s no way to get to 350 ship Navy with that ceiling. It just can’t happen.
PR: Well, we’ve got to have a FYDUP, which is future year Defense, well you know how these budgets work, so we have a multiyear budget that’s going to come. We’re waiting to get the administration’s budget, which we’ll get on the 23rd. They’re proposing a $54 billion dollar increase in Defense spending. By the way, just this year for the next five months, we put a $24 billion dollar increase in Defense. So we’re going to have a, we have a multiyear challenge. We’re going to have a multiyear plan. And we’re going to be hitting as much of our targets as we possibly can.
HH: Now I talked to Mick Mulvaney about this, and he said they were doing a, you know, here’s which shipyard is going to build which ship. Here’s how we’re going to get to 350. Have you seen that plan, yet?
PR: No, we’re waiting for that next week.
HH: And so will you spend what is necessary to get to that number, because that’s what the President promised.
PR: Yeah, we agree with that number. So I do, look, will we undercut the President’s budget on Defense? No, we will not. So we won’t undercut his budget. But look, I’ve got to say, the power of the purse lies with Congress. So we never rubber stamp everything that an administration wants on every line item of spending. That’s what a Defense Authorization bill is all about. That’s what the Armed Services Committee does. Kay Granger in the Appropriations Committee, she will determine how and where that money is spent. But on the level of funding, I can tell you this. It’s my strong opinion that we will not produce a lower number than what the administration is producing. The components of that number, that’s what Congress does. So never ever in the history of budgeting since the ’74 Budget Act has Congress just rubber stamped every line item of a president’s budget.
HH: Agreed, but what I’m looking for is certainty that you will spend as much money as is necessary to get to the 350 ship Navy, which the President promised.
PR: I will leave that to Mack Thornberry and the Armed Services Committee as to what number is. As you know since 2012, I’ve endorsed the number 350. But I will leave it up to our authorizers to make that determination.
HH: A caller before you came on, asked me to remind you that the caucus had promised to defund Planned Parenthood. Will it?
PR: Yeah, we passed it three weeks ago.
HH: And so that’s a done deal?
PR: It’s sitting in the Senate. That’s in our health care bill.
HH: All right.
PR: It’s already out of the House. It’s sitting over in the Senate. It’s going to be. We’re moving it over to the Senate probably in a couple of weeks.
HH: Now I want to go a little bit bigger with you, and you know, I’m an NBC guy as well as a Salem Radio guy, so I’m going to use Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow as my examples.
PR: Good grief. Okay.
HH: But, okay, the battle of ideas in this country has become two camps shouting across an enormous divide that never talk to each other. I mean, they honestly don’t sit down and talk with each other. Would it be a good idea for the Speaker to sit down with a Chris Hayes or a Rachel Maddow and take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and just debate the issues? They’re very civil in that, though they’re persistently wrong. They’re very civil in being so. Don’t we have to get back to talking to each other?
PR: I had two meetings with Nancy Pelosi yesterday. You know, I talk with, I was with Chuck Schumer the day before. My job is not to be out there talking with journalists who are on the other side of the aisle. My job is to be in Congress working with members of Congress who are on the other side of the aisle. So I spend my time working with people on the other side of the aisle here in Congress. So I really don’t see it as my job as like you know, going out and finding Rachel Maddow to break bread with. I have no issues with Rachel Maddow. I’ve never met her before. But really, I see more my job as working with the Democrats here in Congress. And you know what? Most of the bills we pass around here, they’re actually bipartisan. That’s what the press just never pays attention to. I just read you a list of some of the things we did this week. Democrats voted for most of those bills also. So the things that are partisan, repeal and replace, defunding Planned Parenthood, probably tax reform. Those get all the ink in the media. But for every one of those bills, there’s probably five or six that we pass that no one reports, because we all agree. We get along. It’s bipartisan. So I also think that there’s this, there’s no credit being given to the actual bipartisan work that is being done. And by the way, I go on the news in the media all the time, and I would argue that most of the people that I talk with are left of center. I was on George Stephanopoulos’ show fairly recently, so…
HH: Sure. Oh, of course. Of course. Of course, they are.
PR: I talk to Democrats in the media all the time.
HH: (laughing) But do you see what I’m talking about? At 30,000 feet, forget NBC, forget any particular personality, that the country is talking past each other all the time?
PR: That, I do agree with. So, but I don’t see the answer is you know, go on Rachel Maddow’s show and get in some shoutfest. I think the answer is produce results. Look, here’s what I think. I think the last years of the Obama administration, the last eight years, President Obama had a supermajority when he got in office. He took the country hard to the left. He was a dedicated progressive, and he had the courage of his convictions, and he acted on them. The point is I don’t think the country is a hard left country. This is a center-right country. Let’s just say for the sake of argument it’s a center country, which I think it’s a center-right country. But it’s not a left wing country, and we had left wing government. And so we had a reaction against that. We had the 2012 election. We had the 2014 election. We had the 2016 election. And I think what we’re doing is striking that balance and taking the country via policies where the country really actually is. And when we do that, we are undoing the progressive experiment. We are undoing the march towards government-run health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare. The left doesn’t like that, but I think most Americans do. And so that’s just how it goes.
HH: Now yesterday, the President said Obamacare is collapsing, and he’s right. In some places, there is no individual market. What happens, Speaker Ryan, in those places where the individual market has completely collapsed until the AHCA comes along?
PR: Well, that’s the problem. That’s why I believe there’s a sense of urgency. Until we get our bill to replace it passed, they won’t have anything. 94 out of 99 counties in Iowa in 2018 will not have an insurer in the exchange. So that’s what’s going on. Forget about talking about preexisting conditions, which our bill clearly protects, you can’t, if you can’t get any insurance, you can’t get anything. And that is the state of affairs with Obamacare. We saw over 50% increase in premiums in the state of Maryland. We see five states with one health insurer left remaining. We see a third of all counties in America with one health insurer remaining. We just saw Aetna pull out nationwide. We saw United pull out nationwide. And we see another round of premium increases being announced. So the law really actually is collapsing. People will get hurt and harmed if we don’t replace it, and that is why we believe there’s a sense of urgency. This really is a rescue mission. We are on the mission of rescuing the collapsing individual market in health care.
HH: Will the Senate, do you believe, pass their version by the August recess so that a conference committee can get to this?
PR: Yeah. I think they will. I think they will.
HH: All right.
PR: I think that’s a doable timeline.
HH: I want to finish by going abroad to Theresa May’s manifesto, which I doubt you’ve had a chance to read. But she is going to get a huge majority. And I believe she’s going to have a chance to work on, ahead of us, how do you deal with what she calls the gig economy. Do you agree that the Conservative Party, the Tories, can actually lead the way in a lot of 21st Century change of the 20th Century legislative architecture?
PR: Yes. Yeah, so I’ve got a lot of friends in the Tory government. I went over and met with Liam Fox, with Phil Hammond, with George Osborne, you know, with IDS, Iain Duncan Smith. These are all good friends of mine, guys I’ve known for years. And I think they’re a few steps ahead of us in the conservative movement here in America. Iain Duncan Smith, who is a Tory who left the cabinet in the last cabinet, he was the architecture of overhauling the welfare system. They had a real big welfare problem where people were just basically being paid not to work. We have similar problems here. He completely overhauled their welfare system. They call it the universal credit. And if you’re on welfare, you have a job, which is to get a job, and to get the training. And you have work requirements and time limits and conditional welfare benefits. It’s being rolled out and deployed, and it’s working fabulously. It’s getting people into work. It’s getting people, you know, as they say it, off the dole. That’s the way that the Brits talk about it, but more importantly, into jobs. They’re lowering their corporate tax rate to 18%. They went to a territorial system, so their companies can bring their money home. They have an enormous financial services sector in London that is really doing well. It’s no, it’s easy to see why they chose to Brexit, because they didn’t want bureaucracies in Brussels dumbing down their economy and slowing it down. And so the Tories, I think, are doing really well. They gave me sort of a hint of what this manifesto would look like when I was there a couple of weeks ago meeting with the Tories, so I think it’s really exciting. But I also, what I saw the Tories do, which is what I believe we can do, is they have shown a center-right conservative movement that speaks to people, that relates to people, that is very majoritarian. And Labour is kind of loony. They’re sort of loony left now. Their leader is way to the left, couldn’t, is unelectable, and I really believe that’s where the people are. And so it’s our job to work with our president to get there. And that’s why our policies do that, and that’s why I’m faithful and optimistic about 2018 and 2020.
HH: And are you optimistic…
PR: If we keep our promises and do our work, I think people will reward us, because we will do what they wanted us to do.
HH: Last question. Are you optimistic that President Trump is going to adapt to the office to make that easier to do, because he had such a bad two weeks?
PR: Yeah, I mean, obviously, he clearly did have a bad two weeks, and it’s clearly my hope that he does, that he does right the ship, that he improves so that we can just get going. But just so you know, we’re doing our work.
PR: We’re still working with the administration, getting our work done, so it’s not as if like things stop and we wait for better news stories. We don’t. We keep working, and so that’s what people need to know, is we’re still doing our jobs, we’re still doing our work, we’re still going to deliver.
HH: Speaker Paul Ryan, always a pleasure, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
PR: You bet, Hugh. Take care.
End of interview.