Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Politics

Ryan promises to keep government open, makes no promises on health care

WASHINGTON — House leaders told GOP lawmakers Saturday that they plan to devote their energy this week to keeping the federal government open, conspicuously avoiding an immediate commitment to take up health care despite pledges to do so by conservatives and the White House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaking on a conference call with GOP members, offered no specific plan on how or when lawmakers might see details of a new proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which White House officials promised would receive a vote by Wednesday.

Ryan also made clear that his top priority was to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open past Friday, an objective that requires Democratic support. "Wherever we land will be a product the president can and will support." Ryan said, according to a senior GOP aide on the call.

The call comes as GOP leaders find themselves trapped between proving that they can complete basic tasks of governing such as funding the government, while also meeting the demands of President Donald Trump, who is looking for a legislative win ahead of his 100th day in office Saturday.

Ryan's comments suggested that he and other House Republicans will focus on the former. He said, for instance, that the House will vote on a health bill when Republicans are sure they have the support to pass it, GOP aides on the call said.

Ryan encouraged members to continue discussing ideas, but he did not open the call for questions, leaving members to wait until Wednesday morning before they can weigh in on spending or health care.

Trump and his top aides have been calling on Congress to take dramatic action in the coming week: vote on health care, take up tax reform and demand that Democrats agree to a stopgap spending measure that includes funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump has downplayed the significance of achieving a victory in the coming week. He also began walking back the health care promise after signs emerged that GOP leaders were not prepared to take it up because of the risk that it would anger Democrats.

Then, on Saturday, Trump added to the confusion with a tweet promising to release details of a tax overhaul on Wednesday.

Less clear was what will come of Trump's desire to include funding for a border wall in the stopgap measure.

On Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested in an interview with CNN scheduled to run today that Trump may demand the funding.

"I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall," Kelly said. "So I would suspect he'll do the right thing for sure, but I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding."

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said that leaders in Congress could reach a spending agreement, but only if the White House stays out of the negotiations.

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