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Cal Thomas: Paul Ryan’s hope for a Congress that works


Like two predatory animals circling each other, Republicans and Democrats are trying to sort out the meaning of last month’s election and plan strategies for the remaining days of the current Congress and the new one in which Republicans will hold majorities in both houses.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., soon to be chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, spoke with me about the election and his party’s strategy going forward.

“I think (voters) want to see government respect taxpayers again and respect (government’s) limits,” he said. “And they don’t want to see an executive go unchecked.… People want to see a rebalancing of power because they feel theirs is being sapped away.”

There is a debate within conservative circles over whether the outgoing Congress should pass a continuing resolution to fund the government only until Republicans are in control of the Senate, or pass a funding bill through next September. Ryan said House Republicans will take a two-step approach he calls “CRomnibus,” a combination of a long-term omnibus spending bill and a shorter-term continuing resolution.

“We’re going to fund all the government except for the immigration stuff,” he said. “That will be the CR, kick it into next year when we’ll have a better team on the field, and then formulate a plan how to deal with this issue. With CRomnibus (Democrats) can’t spend the next three months saying we’re trying to shut down the government.”

Ryan said he had received little word from the White House, other than “we want to work with you,” on whether President Obama will compromise on anything.

On immigration and the president’s recent executive action, which would allow 5 million illegal aliens to remain in the country, Ryan said House Republicans will pass a bill early in the new session to finish the fence along the southern border. Republicans will attempt to sell the bill on the basis of the rule of law, rather than discrimination against immigrants.

“I think there are a lot of Democrats who will vote for it,” he said. Ryan predicted the president is likely to sign it, if he thinks his veto might be overridden.

Ryan has recently been traveling the country with African-American conservative Robert Woodson, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. The organization is dedicated, according to its website, “with helping residents of low-income neighborhoods address the problems of their communities.” Ryan thinks it’s possible for Republicans to win more than the single-digit number of black votes they have been getting.

“I’m learning (conservative) ideas are universal and are needed in struggling communities more than anywhere else,” he said. “If we take these great ideas … and sell them in an ecumenical way, people like it. People are practicing and preaching (these ideas). They may not say it, (but) they are preaching and practicing personal responsibility, upward mobility, redemption, truth, honesty, courage.”

Ryan said Republicans need to show up in minority neighborhoods and ask what voting for Democrats has gotten them. It’s a good question.

Like most other potential presidential candidates, Ryan said he’ll decide early next year whether to run in 2016. He sounded reluctant, given his young family. He said he has never been a seeker of high office, but if the office comes to him? Well, should opportunity knock, he just might open the door.

Cal Thomas, a columnist with Tribune Content Agency, appears in Opinion on Wednesdays.