- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan vowed Thursday to spend the next year pushing a conservative agenda and relentlessly confronting what he described as President Obama’s failed big-government liberalism, but he cautioned that victories might not come until there’s another occupant in the White House.

In his first major speech since becoming speaker in October, Mr. Ryan outlined a sweeping 2016 agenda designed to restore Americans’ “confidence” that he said has eroded during seven years under Mr. Obama. It includes lowering tax rates, rebuilding the U.S. military and shifting power from bureaucrats to the people.

“Only government that sends power back to the people can make America confident again. And we House Republicans will do all we can to give us that government — even if the president disagrees,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a speech at the Library of Congress.

Mr. Ryan warned that the “bold pro-growth agenda” likely would be blocked by Mr. Obama. But even if the measures fail to become law next year, he said, they would present Americans with a clear choice and set the stage for the next president, who takes office in 2017.

The warning was aimed at conservative House Republicans who forced out his predecessor, House Speaker John A. Boehner, for not doing enough to fulfill their ideological wish list. Mr. Ryan did not run for speaker but was drafted by conservative and establishment factions who looked to him as a unifying figure.

“A great frustration in our party is we have not had a real, national majority in seven years. We have controlled Congress, but not the presidency. And we need to,” he said. “This country has big problems. But if we do not have a president who will work with us, we will not solve those problems — that is, while they are still solvable.”

He later added, “It is with great dismay that we have watched our president transform the country — and not for the better.”

Mr. Ryan said few people are walking away from Mr. Obama’s presidency thinking, “That went well.”

“We still have enormous problems. But now the country is divided. And the federal government has grown arrogant, condescending and outright paternalistic,” he said. “So I’d say what we’ve seen these past seven years is the illusion of success. The left may be good at tactics, but tactics are not solutions.”

The left had mastered tactics of identity politics, demonizing opponents and polarizing the electorate, he said.

“It’s possible we could win that way — but to what end?” he asked.

Mr. Ryan said that Republicans would be the party of ideas and present a clear alternative to the American public.

He did not delve into specifics about a legislative agenda. Instead he offered a broad overview of goals, including spurring job growth, shoring up Medicare and Social Security, reducing government spending and debt and simplifying the tax code and reducing tax rates.

Mr. Ryan has enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts since picking up the speaker’s gavel. And he’s savored successes, such as passing the first multiyear highway funding bill in a decade.

However, his speakership will be tested by a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a spending bill or preside over a partial government shutdown.

He lamented that Americans had lost confidence in Washington.

“We want all Americans, when they look at Washington, to see spending going down, taxes going down, debt going down,” he said. “We want to see progress and have pride. We want people to believe in the future again. We want a country where no one’s stuck, where no one settles, where everyone can rise.”

He said that Americans had lost their confidence at home and on the world stage, and he vowed to reverse the trend by rebuilding the U.S. military to help restore the country’s role as leader of the free world.

“We want a confident America — a purposeful America. We want to know we stand for freedom and show it — not with bluster or bravado, but with calm, steady action. We want our military to command respect from our adversaries and to inspire confidence in our allies,” he said.

Mr. Ryan, who was the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, did not mention the current race for the party’s presidential nomination, though he said the House Republican agenda would crystalize the choice Americans will make.

“We want our president, whatever the party, to always keep an eye on our interests and never turn a blind eye to the truth. We want America to lead again. That is the America we need,” said Mr. Ryan. “And that is not the America we have now.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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