Speaker Paul Ryan joined me this morning:
HH: Joined now by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Paul Ryan. Speaker Ryan, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, always a pleasure to have you.
PR: Heh, good morning, Hugh, how are you doing?
HH: I’m terrific. We had a great, we had the best draft, so the Browns are off. You guys didn’t get much. But the Browns got…
PR: (laughing) I think we had a really good draft, actually.
PR: We needed people in the defensive backfield, and that’s what we got.
HH: We’ll find out December 10th when you guys come to Cleveland.
PR: Yeah. It could be worse. Anybody could be the Chicago Bears.
HH: That’s true. That’s true, and they traded the whole damn franchise for one player. We can all laugh at the Bears together.
PR: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.
HH: That’s a bipartisan thing.
PR: Let’s enjoy that moment together.
HH: (laughing) Look, I tell people I’m going to judge Team Trump on the judges, and I’m very happy with Gorsuch and waiting for the other ones, on the military spending, on border security, on Obamacare and on the EPA, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services and the Army Corps of Engineers. I want to go back through those in reverse order on the spending bill. The left came out and said EPA got 99%, and there’s climate spending and all this. What did the budget agreement, the omnibus do on EPA and other environmental land grabs and issues like that?
PR: We, there are no funds for this grant to the climate front, so we have no funds going to the Green Climate Fund, which was kind of an Obama-era pet project. We reduced the EPA staffing levels to pre-Obama, back to 1989. So we knocked the staff down to what we had in 1989. So there are the people who I would argue are kicking out regulations that are harmful to the economy. This gets at that. There are things in the EPA that deal with infrastructure. Those things are maintained, because you know, their infrastructure things are important. But we defund, we zero out the Green Climate Fund, knock the employment levels back to 1989 levels.
HH: That’s terrific. Mr. Speaker, the Paris Agreement is a big problem. They’re talking about it at the White House again this week.
HH: The Paris Agreement was signed by President Obama on September 3rd. It entered into effect on November 4th, 2016, signed on September 3rd. Why not do a Congressional Review Act resolution on the Paris Agreement and simply bar the door to executive actions on this stuff?
PR: I don’t know that it’s actually gotten to the point where it’s ripe enough for us to do a CRA. And the Trump administration is looking at whether they can preempt it before it even gets to that.
HH: But would you be opposed to, if…
PR: No, no, I wouldn’t, but I don’t know that it’s, I don’t, I haven’t looked at the details, but I don’t think it’s ripe enough, meaning it hasn’t gotten to the level where we can trigger a CRA.
HH: Okay, I disagree with you on that. If I’m right…
PR: I mean, I may be wrong on that, but my understanding is the administration is looking at just dealing with it on their own, which is much more efficient for us.
HH: Okay, but one last question. If it’s CRA-eligible, would you bring that resolution?
PR: I have no problem with bringing that resolution. We missed, we are out of the CRA window now, but there is an argument that can be made about the CRA window. It’s a debate we’re having, which we’re going to be testing, I think, in the near future.
HH: Okay, I think it’s still in the CRA window, but let’s move on to the Obamacare subsidies in the omnibus. What do you think about that?
PR: Well, we don’t do Obamacare subsidies in the omnibus.
HH: Not at all?
PR: Yeah, no, there are no CSR payments here. Those are called cost sharing reduction payments. Those aren’t in here. and obviously, the Democrats wanted that, and we didn’t do that.
HH: Okay, and so how can Pelosi and Schumer do a victory dance when they didn’t get any subsidies?
PR: This is called spin. This is called PR. This is called, you know, trying to make something out of nothing, or just get good spin going. But no, there are no cost, there are no CSR payments in here.
HH: All right. Next, border security. I played Mick Mulvaney today, because I’ve wanted a fence, not a wall, but a double-sided fence forever.
HH: He put up the pictures. There’s a billion and a half dollars in here…
HH: …for serious border security.
PR: That’s right. That’s right.
HH: Expand on how that gets spent.
PR: It’s actually the biggest increase in border security in a decade. It gets spent by a whole number of things. Mick ran through it. They call it bollard fencing, which is what in many areas the border security thinks is the smartest way to go so you can see through it, so you can see what’s happening on the other side of the border. You want to, our border patrol, I was down there. They tell me that’s really helpful for them, to be able to see through it. It’s also cameras. It’s detention facilities. We have an increase in detention facilities so we can end catch and release. There are lots of things that are in here like this to help us get a huge down payment on border security. The administration, we met with the administration, and they said look, this is a five month continuing resolution. It’s a five month bill. And we’re, we don’t need the wall funding within the next five months. We need it for next year, for FY-2018, which starts in October. So the wall itself is going to be something that we’re going to be dealing with this summer. But in the meantime, we wanted to get a big down payment on border security itself, which is to prepare everything for that. That is fences, cameras, people, more ICE agents, more detention beds, those kinds of things.
HH: Is anything thinking about doing a before and after video of where the new fencing goes up, because that is effective. It works in San Diego. It works in parts of Arizona.
HH: And we need to show people physically what’s happening.
PR: Absolutely. I’ve been down there. It really actually works. And so the San Diego one is a double-layer fence. There are some single, it’s these bollard fences, they call them. It’s, I wont’ get into the details. It would probably bore your listeners. But on the ground, circumstances sort of determine what they believe is necessary. In some cases, they want to be able to see through it, so they see what’s happening and what’s coming, and who’s trying. You also have to have technology. You have to have cameras. You have to have sensors. It’s all about delaying people illegally crossing so that your agents can get there in time to interdict. That is really what the deal here is, and so you’ve got to have what I call smart borders where you actually have the technology and the sensors so that you can see what’s happening and see what’s coming so that our agents can actually interdict.
HH: Now let’s turn to military spending, which is the biggest deal of all. You know you’ve got the Marinette Shipyard up there. The LCS is produced. If we don’t get more ships rolling off of that line, not the LCS, maybe a new frigate or something, we’re not going to get to 350. There’s a down payment here on the military buildup. How big is it?
PR: This is, to me, it’s $21 billion in this bill. If you look year over year from 2016, it’s
$25 [billion] based on what we did earlier in the year. Here’s the deal. We, when after the President won the election in December, we decided we would have a continuing resolution that got us to April, because we wanted to give this president, President Trump, a chance in the middle of a fiscal year to make some big improvements before we have a full fiscal year spending bill with our new president, which is this October bill. And so what we really wanted to do is break the parity requirement that we endured under Obama, where if you wanted to put a dollar into the military for a ship, for a plane, for bullets, for gas, you had to give the domestic spending of federal government another dollar. That is the parity requirement we lived under with Obama. It held the military hostage for more bloated domestic spending. We broke that parity, and that to me, is the biggest thing here. That is the biggest accomplishment. I negotiated the Murray-Ryan budget deal four years ago, and we lived under the fact that with a Democrat president, and in many cases, a Democrat Senate, we had to hit parity. We broke that. We don’t have parity. We’ve got a big Defense increase. It’s a really good down payment. We’ve got much, much more to do in Defense when we get into full year planning for Fiscal Year 2018, but that’s the deal here, which is we have a $21, this bill alone, a $21 billion dollar increase in Defense spending, and we do not have a $21 billion dollar increase in domestic spending. That’s very important. And that, to me, the breaking of that parity requirement shows that we’re now back to fixing Defense, and we’re not going to allow it to be held hostage for more bloated domestic spending.
HH: That is the number one takeaway for me.
PR: It’s the number one takeaway for me, too.
HH: And now, and specifically, though, within it, you’ve got a 2.1% pay hike for the military. I approve of that. That’s great. And you don’t cut troop levels. That’s terrific as well.
PR: Yeah, that’s, our big fear was just the brigades were getting down. We were just, we were shrinking the actual size of our military footprint. And we need to go after the civilian side of DOD to get savings.
PR: …and not the actual boots on the ground, the actual people who put uniforms on.
HH: But as to shipbuilding, and again, I know you know this because of the Marinette plant…
HH: …which produces the LCS. That’s going to be, that’s not going to be around in a couple of years. They’re going to go down to Mississippi for that. We’ve got to build a frigate out of Marinette. But there isn’t, even in this, there’s like a half extra ship in this budget. When are we doing to get the 350 ship Navy plan signed, sealed and delivered?
PR: Yeah, so I’m not going to get into what Marinette should or should not do. I don’t want to weigh into that debate. That’s a big debate about, you know, LCS versus other ships. But that is, what you just described, is the goal. We call that the FYDP, the Future Year Defense Planning. We’re waiting for the Pentagon to basically give us theirs. Our chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry, is working on a new Defense authorization bill, now that we have a Republican president, to map out a five year strategy for our military which will then be accompanied with appropriations to fit that five year strategy. That is this summer’s project, to make sure that we have long term planning for the kinds of ship count we need, the kind of plane count we need, what kind of military, how many brigades we need in the Army, you know, how many troops we need in the Marines we need. Those are the things that we’re going to spend all summer working on to have a comprehensive multiyear plan to rebuild our military, which was hollowed out in the Obama years.
HH: And so Mr. Speaker, at the end of that process, will we be able to say we’re going to get to 350 ships with this kind of ship at this kind of yard built this year?
PR: That’s what, that’s what, I’m not going to say now what ships will be built when and what number. That is what the Defense authorization bill will determine this summer.
HH: Terrific. That’s terrific. Now let’s talk about Obamacare. The, I call it now Freedom Caucus care, because they derailed it, and I know you can’t say this, but they derailed it three weeks ago. Now, it’s, now they’re, they’ve got a poison pill in it for Fred Upton and others. Is this dead, Mr. Speaker?
PR: No, no, no. Fred Upton’s actually, his amendment that he’s working on is something that people, nobody has a problem with. And it’s actually helping. Fred Upton identified something that he thinks will make the bill better that is mutually agreed to by people from all parts of our conference. So what Fred Upton, who was the former chairman of the Commerce Committee, knows this issue really, really well, is trying to be constructive in improving this bill so that people who were currently undecided feel better about supporting this bill. There is not a problem. He’s, you know, Mark Meadows, who is the chair of this caucus you’re talking about, is very involved in this process, knows exactly what’s going on. So what we’re doing is listening to our members, finding where that sweet spot of consensus is, and driving there.
HH: Will you get there before you leave this week on a two week recess?
PR: I have a policy of not commenting on when we’re going to bring these votes up. We’re going to bring them up with we get the votes. We’re getting extremely close. We’re having very, very productive conversations with our members. The President’s having good conversations with our members. The Vice President is, his whole staff is involved. And so I feel very good about the progress we’re making, and we’ll make the announcement when we make the announcement. That’s the way I, that’s the way I handle these things.
HH: There’s a death watch in the media. I mean, I read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post stories all on the air today. They all want to pronounce this thing DOA.
PR: They would love to do that. They would love to say, you know what? Obamacare’s here to stay. These guys aren’t going to get rid of Obamacare. Of course, and I, more and more these days, what I read in the newspaper, I’m like that’s wrong, this is wrong, that’s not correct, that’s half true. It’s just amazing to me.
HH: Okay, that’s great. So there is hope. There’s life and there’s hope.
PR: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we’re making progress.
HH: All right, let’s talk about the issue of life and the issue of choice in schools, because again, the omnibus went to both of those issues, and there’s been criticism that Planned Parenthood wasn’t defunded.
PR: Well, so first of all, there’s no funding for Planned Parenthood in this bill. This keeps all our pro-life riders like the Hyde Amendment and the Kemp-Kasten language which people who are pro-life know what I’m talking about. And I’ll just paraphrase the pro-life groups like Right to Life, like the folks who have been working on this for years and years and years, which is do that in reconciliation, because you have to remember one thing. This appropriations bill, all appropriation bills require 60 votes in the Senate. That’s their rules, not ours in the House, which means they have to be bipartisan. Reconciliation bills do not have to be bipartisan. You can pass them with 51 votes. And so that is why the pro-life movement rightfully says the right way to go after Planned Parenthood and advance the pro-life cause is in reconciliation. That is why it is in our health care bill.
HH: Okay, back then to the last thing, the IRS, because the IRS got away with murder, and with targeting Tea Party groups. There has been no justice. Lois Lerner is collecting her pension. What does the omnibus say about the IRS?
PR: Well, it has a lot of riders that prohibits the IRS from targeting groups. It prohibits them issuing regulations that mess with, these are called 501C3’s and C4’s. It prohibits the IRS from targeting groups based upon their ideological beliefs. So we have new laws and new riders in here that prohibits the IRS from doing those things. With respect to the investigations we’ve had with the IRS, we now have a Republican president with a Republican Treasury Secretary who now oversees the IRS. And so we feel like obviously we have better people in charge, clearly, and we have very important riders in here. And we capped their budget as well. We did not give them the kind of increase that they’re looking for.
HH: Okay, so looking forward, the President tweeted out yesterday what we need is a good shutdown. I will accept a lot of wins in this omnibus, especially on the military and on EPA. I believe that. You’ve persuaded me. I already had been persuaded about that. Looking forward, though, big fights ahead. Do you anticipate that they will be avoided, or that we will have to prepare for a shutdown in the fall?
PR: Trying to project what’s going to happen on September 30th is like an aeon around here. So I am not even going to venture to guess.
HH: Are there going to be more CRA bills? There have been 13. These are hugely important, and no one understands them, but they’re hugely important.
PR: Hugely. The point is there’s a time limit on these things, and we’ve pretty much gone after all of the ones that can coincide with our time limit. The question is, are there some that are outside that time limit window that we can test the rules? We’re going to be doing that. But now, we’re getting into the Trump, you know, when you get into the Trump administration, it’s an administration you agree with, and you agree with their regulations, so I do believe these things are going to taper off, because we’re getting into the moment of time where these are now regulations coming out of a conservative administration that are putting good pro-business regulations out that will help create jobs and bring certainty to the business community.
HH: All right, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time. Can I get one commitment from you?
PR: What’s that?
HH: To go and look at the Paris Agreement. It was signed on September the 3rd. It’s under the CRA. We could absolutely bar the door to non-Congressionally mandated climate change legislation and rules.
PR: I will go look at that. Right now, I’m working on, you know, health care and other issues.
HH: You’ve got other issues. Mr. Speaker, congratulations on a good draft. Thanks for joining me, talk to you next time.
PR: All right, take care. See you.
End of interview.