- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2016

House Republicans released a plan Tuesday to attack poverty “at its roots” by encouraging work, improving education and tailoring welfare benefits to individual needs, as the GOP sought a unifying message it can take into this year’s election.

The poverty plan is the first of six policies the House GOP will roll out in coming weeks, and this one was a personal project of Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

His proposal would stiffen work requirements tied to certain welfare programs, push states to help with job-placement,and expand the locations where housing assistance can be used.

“We need to go at the root causes of poverty to break the cycle of poverty, and we should measure success based on results, outcomes,” Mr. Ryan said in the courtyard of the House of Hope charity in the Anacostia neighborhood of the District of Columbia, one of the poorest parts of the nation’s capital.

The poverty plan will be followed later this week with a national security policy. Plans on government regulations, the Constitution, tax reform and health care will come later.

The agenda is designed to unify the party, so it left out areas of disagreements within the GOP, such as immigration and trade reforms — two areas where Mr. Ryan clashes with likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

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Yet Mr. Ryan couldn’t escape questions about Mr. Trump on Tuesday. The speaker told reporters Mr. Trump’s assertion that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who was born in Indiana, cannot fairly preside over a lawsuit against Trump University because he is of Mexican descent, is “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

“I fundamentally disagree with that,” Mr. Ryan said. “I think it’s wrong.”

He did not withdraw his endorsement of Mr. Trump, however, arguing the Republican nominee offers a path forward for the GOP agenda, while presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton does not.

Republican aides said they expect Mr. Trump to be able to embrace the House GOP agenda should he win the White House, and the billionaire businessman signaled he’s open to the policies.

“He wants to take people out if poverty. So do I. And we’re going to come up with a plan,” Mr. Trump said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The House GOP’s proposal says the government should collaborate with the private sector to bolster social programs, yet only reimburse private companies that deliver results. Among other reforms, the plan would allow college students to use their Pell Grants for summer classes, so they can accelerate their course load.

Some charities said they were pleased that Republicans focused on what works and what doesn’t, rather than sending programs to the chopping block.

“We have disagreements with some of the proposals. But we are pleased that the plan doesn’t propose to cut or block-grant anti-poverty programs, and we welcome the emphasis on making programs as effective as possible,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a Christian nonprofit that combats hunger.

Leading Democrats were skeptical, however, saying this year’s GOP budget proposes sweeping cuts to social programs and that handing more power to the states would allow funding to dwindle over time.

“This is a new spin on a bad deal,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

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