Paul Ryan Meets With Donald Trump to Build Relationship, Plan Agenda

The speaker of the House is supporting Trump after a contentious history.

ByBenjamin Siegel
November 10, 2016, 7:41 PM

— -- House Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed Donald Trump to Capitol Hill today to lay the groundwork for the 2017 GOP agenda, appearing side-by-side with the Republican president-elect for the first time after his controversial -- and ultimately successful -- bid for the White House.

The meeting -- a working buffet lunch with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Melania Trump -- was the fourth time Trump and Ryan have met in person.

“What I got out of Donald Trump today is this is a man of action,” Ryan said in a Fox News interview Thursday. “He is ready to get working, he wants to get it done for the country.”

As he acquainted himself with the top Republicans in Congress and made his way around the Capitol, Trump listed health care and immigration as top priorities for his administration.

"Immigration. Borders are important," he told reporters after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. "Health care. jobs -- big league jobs."

Ryan has already phoned Trump twice since the New York real estate developer won the race to the White House, defeating Hillary Clinton -— and winning Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, the first Republican presidential candidate to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

While Ryan endorsed Trump and even offered to campaign with him in early November, he was vocally critical of elements of his campaign.

In a rare House floor speech early in the race, Ryan criticized Trump's proposal to bar foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. He also rebuked Trump for his comments about an Indiana-born federal judge of Mexican descent, calling the comments the "textbook definition" of racism, and said he was "sickened" by Trump's comments about groping women and sexual assault in the leaked 2005 "Access Hollywood" video.

Trump has lashed out at Ryan and accused him of undermining his campaign. In August, he initially refused to endorse Ryan in his House primary against a populist, Trump-supporting opponent. In the fall he called him a "very weak and ineffective" leader and suggested that Ryan wanted him to lose so he could run for president in 2020.

The two leaders have their policy differences. Trump has endorsed elements of the House GOP election-year agenda, including the tax reform plank. He agrees with Ryan on repealing and replacing "Obamacare." But they have significant disagreements on immigration and entitlement reform, free trade and foreign policy.

However, Ryan said Wednesday that he is ready to follow Trump's lead -- not only in the next session of Congress but also in the remaining months of Barack Obama's administration, when Congress must pass a measure to fund the government past Dec. 9.

"Donald Trump will lead a unified Republican government. And we will work hand-in-hand on a positive agenda to tackle this country's big challenges," Ryan said.

Before he can get down to business with Trump, Ryan must secure a second term as House speaker next week. Despite complaints from Republican hard-liners about Ryan's performance and his relationship with Trump during the election, he remains the only Republican with enough support to secure the 218 votes needed to keep the gavel.

"I don't know of anybody running against the speaker at this point," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which worked to remove the previous speaker, John Boehner.

Some of Trump's prominent supporters, including Fox News' Sean Hannity, have suggested Ryan won't be speaker when Trump becomes president next year.

"Paul Ryan in not going to be the speaker of the House in January," Hannity said during a Fox News broadcast on election night. He later walked back the comment on Twitter.

Trump appeared to suggest today that he plans to work with Ryan in his capacity as speaker next year.

"I think we’re going to do some absolutely spectacular things for the American people,” Trump said. “We look forward to starting, in fact truthfully we can’t get started fast enough."

Asked about Trump's past criticisms of his leadership, Ryan told Fox News that the GOP is in much better shape after the election than the Democratic Party.

“The Democrats are the ones with the turmoil. Republicans are the ones who are unified,” he added, crediting Trump for House Republicans’ limited losses on Tuesday.

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