- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

CLEVELAND — House Republicans were counting on their own agenda to help put some distance between themselves and Donald Trump, but their six-plank plan, which Speaker Paul D. Ryan and fellow leaders released last month with great fanfare inside the Beltway, has landed with a thud elsewhere.

“He hasn’t rolled it out yet, has he?” Utah state Sen. Scott Jenkins, a convention delegate, said of the speaker’s white papers. “I haven’t read them.”

Others said they heard about the plans but hadn’t had a chance to comb through them. “It’s homework,” said Fred Henneke, an alternate delegate from Kerrville, Texas.

The lack of impact so far for the House Republican agenda is a challenge for Mr. Ryan and his troops, who are hoping their plans outlining an Obamacare replacement, calling for repairing the tax code and proposing limits on government regulations will give them campaign platforms.

Mr. Ryan made a pitch for the agenda in his address to the convention Tuesday, saying Republican Donald Trump would be more likely to sign their plans into law than would Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Delegates who heard Mr. Ryan speak praised him for going beyond attacks on Mrs. Clinton to say what the Republican Party should be for. Still, Mr. Trump hasn’t used his famous Twitter account or campaign soapbox to hail the House Republican policy prescriptions.

“The Donald doesn’t like to tether himself to the ideas of others,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist.

Dubbed “A Better Way,” the House Republican agenda grew out of a set of task forces to brainstorm ideas, established long before Mr. Trump emerged from the party’s crowded primary field.

Mr. Ryan presented the results last month and pitched them again under the brights lights of the Quicken Loans Arena, just moments after Mr. Trump was formally nominated.

“We offer a better way for America, with ideas that actually work,” Mr. Ryan told the crowd. “A reformed tax code that rewards free enterprise instead of just enterprising lobbyists. A reformed health care system that operates by free choice instead of by force and doesn’t leave you answering to cold, clueless bureaucrats.”

The speaker’s office said Mr. Ryan, Mr. Trump and their staff members have spoken for months about the agenda and that the nominee appears comfortable with the House plans.

Some of the mogul’s supporters, however, are cool to the ideas. Ed Bodnar, a Trump supporter from Dallas, said Mr. Ryan hasn’t taken a hard enough line against illegal immigration, so he wasn’t about to sit down and read six of his policy blueprints.

“Not his, no,” Mr. Bodnar said near Cleveland’s Public Square.

The speaker is, however, quietly making inroads ahead of a bitter general election battle for the White House and control of Congress.

Mr. Henneke took detailed notes while Mr. Ryan spoke to his delegation’s breakfast this week, even scribbling down the agenda’s website — Better.gop — in the corner of his notebook to explore it more.

Former Pennsylvania state Rep. Gordon Denlinger, from Lancaster, said he has looked at “bits and pieces” of the plan.

“I like what I’ve read, and you know, we do have to have a road map to share with people,” he said. “I think it’s a conscientious effort. It represents the diversity of the House Republican caucus.”

Mr. Trump will address his faithful crowd late Thursday, capping off his coronation, though it’s unclear whether he will use the spotlight to address how he would work with a Republican-led Congress.

For now, many Republicans are giving their standard-bearer some breathing room. They see him as a willing partner — particularly in contrast to Mrs. Clinton — in spite of his go-it-alone posture on the campaign trail.

“Politically, he’s got to win a race. We’ve got to worry about policy,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican, said ahead of the summer recess. “But what I heard from him was that he’s going to work together with us.”

Mr. Jenkins said party unity “goes deeper than Paul Ryan” and starts with Republicans backing the nominee rather than writing new plans.

“I understand messaging is important, and it is about ideas,” he said, “but only to a point.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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