House Speaker Paul Ryan was among the members of Congress who on Thursday afternoon addressed Religious Right activists gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference; President Trump had addressed the conference earlier in the day. Faith and Freedom’s Ralph Reed introduced Ryan as a true believer, a fighter and a champion for the Religious Right’s “ideals and principles.”
Ryan joked that activists have picked a “really boring week” to come to Washington. He said that despite “the tweet of the hour and the news of the day,” House Republicans are focused on advancing their agenda, saying that Republican control of the House, Senate and White House gives conservatives an “incredible opportunity.”
Ryan made a reference to that day’s congressional testimony by former FBI director James Comey without mentioning Comey’s name. “You turn on the news today, you’ll just hear about one testimony that occurred in one committee in one half of Congress today. You know what we’re doing on the floor right now? You know what the House is working on this minute that’s gonna pass … in about three hours? We’re gonna repeal and replace Dodd-Frank.”
Ryan bragged about House moves toward defunding Planned Parenthood, saying abortion-rights opponents had agreed to advance their policies using the budget reconciliation process as a way to evade a filibuster in the Senate. He said the Republican health care plan is “the most pro-life” legislation ever and said that a Republican tax reform bill will advance both “pro-growth” and “pro-family” agendas.
During a conversation with Reed, Ryan talked about Republicans from both red and swing districts needing to unite around a legislative strategy. He said many members of the Republican caucus were first elected during the Obama administration, and are still learning how to make the switch from an opposition party to a governing party. Reed asked Ryan about his “interesting” relationship with Donald Trump, with whom Ryan clashed during the campaign. Ryan said he hadn’t known Trump before the campaign, and had been concerned about Trump’s conservative principles. But, he said, since the election their relationship has been “phenomenal.” He said he is excited that Trump is not worried about rocking the boat and is “ready to get it all done.”
Ryan talked about using the reconciliation process to move the agenda and get around Senate filibuster rules. Typically, he said, reconciliation has only been done once a year, but “we found a way to do it twice this year.”
Asked by Reed whether the House majority would stick together to pass a health care bill if it is substantially changed in the Senate, he said yes. “I honestly believe,” he said, that if the Republicans do not pass a repeal bill, Obamacare will collapse and set the stage for Democrats to push for “government-run health care.”
“Religious liberty has been so under assault in this country and around the world,” Ryan declared, saying Republicans are making “great progress” on that front. He said the “Conscience Protection Act,” which opponents say would “significantly expand” restrictions on women’s access to abortion, is one of his highest priorities.
Reed ended the conversation by praising Ryan and promising “we will be there with you all the way through.”