- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The White House suggested Tuesday that it has the upper hand with congressional Republicans in year-end appropriations battles, saying new Speaker Paul Ryan can’t afford the political mess of a government shutdown.

Earlier in the day Mr. Ryan emerged from his first meeting at the helm of the House GOP to say Congress would flex its power of the purse in the upcoming fight. But Democrats warned him not to use that power to challenge the president on thorny abortion, immigration or environmental fights.

“My suspicion is that Speaker Ryan doesn’t want to preside over a government shutdown six weeks after getting his new job,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “It’s not something I think would be clearly in his interest.”

Mr. Ryan was elected speaker last week to replace Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, who retired.

The president signed into law a two-year budget deal Monday that raises spending by at least $80 billion and keeps the government running until early 2017. But lawmakers still face a Dec. 11 deadline to set actual spending levels on thousands of line items.

Some conservatives have said they will insist the bills withhold money for Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos showing organization employees negotiating the sale of fetal tissue for research. Mr. Obama has vowed to reject that move, raising the prospect of another stalemate over government funding.

Congressional Democrats said Mr. Ryan is trying to placate his right-wing troops in the House GOP rather than looking for a middle ground with them.

“It’s up to Republicans to come to us,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who said there shouldn’t be any policy “riders” on controversial issues attached to the spending bills.

Democrats also worried that the GOP will try to outmaneuver them, passing the all-important defense spending bill as a standalone, then forgoing the domestic priorities, shortchanging the deal reached last week that called for equal increases in both Pentagon and domestic spending. The solution, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said, is to move a giant “omnibus” bill containing all government funding for fiscal year 2016.

Just days into his job as speaker, Mr. Ryan is already butting heads with the White House. At a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Ryan reiterated that he doesn’t intend to work with the president on comprehensive immigration reform, although he said he’d be willing to “advance” measures to strengthen border security.

“If we try to move in a comprehensive way with a president who has proven that he wants to go it alone, I don’t think that works,” Mr. Ryan said. “Given the fact that President Obama tried to do an end run around Congress to go it alone, to try to write laws himself unilaterally — which is not what presidents do, that’s what Congress does — I think on this particular issue he has proven himself untrustworthy on this.”

Mr. Earnest said the speaker’s comments on immigration were “disappointing,” and he accused Mr. Ryan of pandering to conservative House Republicans on immigration to solidify his support.

“There’s probably a political calculation that Speaker Ryan is making here in terms of criticizing the president over this issue,” Mr. Earnest said. “A guy who was part of a Republican leadership team that spent more than a year blocking legislation that would make a historic investment in border security is now suggesting he wants to work with the president on border security. It’s a little hard to take seriously.”

He said Mr. Ryan’s approach on immigration is “disappointing, but it certainly is not going to prevent us from trying to find areas where he’s being at least a little constructive.”

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

 

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