House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday that Americans are rejecting the Democrats’ knee-jerk opposition to President Trump and boldly predicted that Americans would reward Republicans in 2018 for following through on a healthcare agenda that, for now, is deeply unpopular.
In an impromptu interview to discuss the Republicans’ four special election victories, including last week’s crucial win in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Ryan said the liberal strategy for dealing with Trump has been discredited. So, too, the speaker added, would doubters of his party’s legislation to partially repeal Obamacare.
“The Democrats are in disarray. All they’re doing is suggesting they’re going to come and fight and resist, and I don’t think that’s what voters want,” the Wisconsin Republican told the Washington Examiner. “We just saw four victories for tackling problems and addressing issues, and four defeats for just simple resistance — and that was the basis of their campaign.”
The “resistance” is a slogan used by many of Trump’s opponents on the Left.
Just days away from a critical Senate vote for companion legislation to the House-passed American Health Care Act, Ryan’s happy talk on healthcare struck a familiar tone.
Back in 2009 and 2010, as President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress were closing in on final passage the extremely unpopular Affordable Care Act, they vowed that Americans would embrace Obamacare once it was implemented and they experienced the benefits.
It never happened, and Democrats paid a heavy price in dozens and dozens of lost seats in consecutive midterm elections. Until, that is, this year, when the Republicans’ plans to replace the law got rolling. For the time in its existence, Obamacare has spent consecutive months more popular than not.
Republicans are pushing forward, but they’re concerned about blowback in 2018, especially with Trump in the White House. They shouldn’t be, Ryan insisted.
“Whether or not it’s being perceived well, or understood fairly, is not the question so much as: Do we achieve the result? That means we have to pass our policies to achieve good results and let the results speak for themselves,” Ryan said. “Whether or not we can communicate in the fog of the moment is not as important as: Do our policies make a difference and do they solve the problem? And, the answer is, ‘yes.’ And, that’s why we have to see it through.”
Ryan’s bullishness isn’t without some justification.
Georgia’s suburban Atlanta 6th District is educated and upscale. It’s been Republican for decades but barely chose Trump in November over Democrat Hillary Clinton. It’s the type of seat Democrats needs to compete for to have any chance of winning back the House next year.
Democratic energy and money poured into the race from all over the country, and polls showed Democrat Jon Ossoff poised to pull an upset until the very end, when the race started to turn. It was the fourth victory in as many House specials that included narrower than expected wins in three other districts that are solidly conservative.
It also happened with Trump’s job approval hovering around 40 percent, after the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election that could implicate the president.
It also happened during the debate, and after passage, of a health care overhaul in the House that, according to a poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, only 16 percent of Americans think is a “good idea,” with 48 percent saying it’s a “bad idea.”
Still, it was unusual to hear Ryan eschew the usual lines about caution and the danger of midterm elections for the party that controls the White House. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose majority appears more secure than Ryan’s because of a favorable map, is warning his members that the winds can change quickly.
“Voters want us to do what we said we would do. They like what we said we would do, and we simply have to execute. And, so by executing our agenda, by keeping our momentum, we’ll keep a virtuous cycle going,” Ryan said. “We are on offense; we need to stay on offense.”
Ryan dismissed questions about Trump’s drag on his members, especially incumbents running for re-election in districts that Trump lost to Clinton last year despite their tradition of voting for Republicans.
The day that James Comey, the FBI director Trump fired under controversial circumstances, testified before a Senate committee, House Republicans repealed Dodd-Frank, Obama’s signature financial reform law, the speaker said, as proof that the president’s periodic distractions aren’t really that distracting.
But Ryan’s robust political operation, and his personal attention to fundraising, suggests that he understands what his party could be up against in 2018.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, and his affiliated super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund, were the biggest players for the party in the specials. He is raising record amounts of cash for a speaker, and has already transferred $22 million to the NRCC.
Since January, Ryan has held 154 fundraisers and meetings across the country, traveling to 42 cities and 20 states, raising more than $30 million. The speaker has raised an additional $3.4 million for his colleagues by headlining their fundraisers.
So what’s Ryan telling his members to keep them on track and discouraged by the heat, or the tweetstorm, of the moment? “Let’s get our work done. We built out a timeline for this agenda for this term. Let’s go execute it,” he said.
Republicans will be vindicated in 2018 on healthcare