- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 14, 2016

BALTIMORE — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looked beyond the GOP’s bitter presidential race Thursday and said they plan to offer a constructive agenda for voters who’ll have the final say in November’s general election.

Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, is using a Republican retreat in Baltimore to focus his troops on an “inspiring” and “optimistic” agenda for the American people. It’s supposed to provide a contrast to President Obama, who he cast as a divider.

“What does 2017 look like if the election goes the way we hope it goes?” he said of their mission. “And that’s why we think it’s important for us to offer a positive, solutions-oriented approach — an agenda to the American people so that they can choose in 2016 what kind of country they want to have,” he told reporters alongside Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, during a break between work sessions at a downtown hotel.

The leaders have been dogged by questions about the GOP’s loyalty to Donald Trump — the flamboyant businessman who’s roiled the field with his rhetoric on illegal immigration and Muslims — and to Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican who’s sparred with GOP leadership and is leading in Iowa.

“That’s going to solve itself at some point here in the process,” Mr. McConnell said, refusing to get dragged into the race.

Leaders have pledged loyalty to whoever becomes the GOP nominee, though they swatted away questions about a brokered convention this summer, should a solid front-runner fail to emerge from the crowded field.

“How do I know?” Mr. Ryan said. “No one knows the answer to that question.”

In the meantime, GOP leaders are forging ahead with their legislative agenda, starting with passage of 12 spending bills that were derailed last year amid GOP infighting and opposition from Senate Democrats.

“We weren’t sent here to do nothing,” Mr. McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to cooperate in the appropriations process, but he’s already roiling the waters in a campaign year.

On Thursday, he said he will offer Mr. Trump’s plans as amendments to Senate bills this year, forcing Republicans to either embrace or reject the controversial candidate.

Mr. McConnell said he doesn’t want to turn the Senate into a “studio” for issues from the 2016 campaign.

“But it’s worth noting — what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Mr. McConnell said.

He said Democrats could face the same type of votes on proposals by their front-runners for president, former Secretary State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent.

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