- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is relying heavily on the staff of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to put together a legislative plan for the first 100 days in office, hoping for major steps on both the economy and Obamacare.

While they were uneasy allies during the campaign, Mr. Ryan has emerged after the election as one of Mr. Trump’s biggest cheerleaders on Capitol Hill and has filled a void in a Trump operation that was not ready to do the heavy planning, a source close to the effort said.

“The Trump team never fully thought of the implications of winning,” the source said.

Asked about Mr. Ryan’s staff engagement with the Trump team, another source familiar with both said, “Speaker Ryan is in contact with President-elect Trump nearly every day.”

One quick option would be to tie a tax reform package and a huge infrastructure program into one bill — and perhaps tack on an increase in the debt limit, giving Republicans room to maneuver on taxes and spending for several years as they try to kick-start the economy.

The bill would use the tax code to offer tax breaks, depreciation and state bond authority to fund the infrastructure projects, which would aim for big-ticket items like rail improvements, new airports and bridges and highways.

A second idea is to repeal Obamacare quickly but make the effective date January 2018. That would give Republicans one year to write a new health care law, said the source, who asked not to be identified.

Mr. Ryan, a policy wonk whose previous role was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, making him the country’s chief tax authority, has put together a staff steeped in knowledge about the tax code and budget. They in turn have helped the Trump people understand how the first 100 days would unfold on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Ryan’s evolution from Trump critic to close confidant underscores the opportunity both sides see.

The speaker has already moved to make sure Mr. Trump, not Mr. Obama, has the last say over the final months of spending in fiscal year 2017.

Mr. Ryan also has come to the defense of Stephen K. Bannon, who is set to become Mr. Trump’s top White House strategist, and who has faced scorching criticism from Democrats.

“This is a person who helped him win an incredible victory,” Mr. Ryan said. “We’re confident about moving forward. We’re confident about the transition.”

The process got off to a rocky start when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the transition chief, was pushed aside in favor of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Trump aides are wary of whether the governor will face any allegations down the road from his aides who were convicted in the “Bridgegate” scandal, the source said.

Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump are now working quickly to fill out their team, naming Sen. Jeff Sessions on Friday as the pick for attorney general and Rep. Mike Pompeo to be CIA director. Mr. Trump also tapped retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.

Even as he rewards some of his closest allies on Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump will rely on others to see through his agenda.

Mr. Ryan warned against expecting too quick a start to the new year, saying the Senate’s rules can pose problems. But he said they know the expectations.

“We intend on delivering, and we’re going to make sure that this is the most productive Congress we’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said. “I’m confident that, as people understand the way the legislative process works, they will see that we are going to be hitting the ground running.”

Democrats and two liberal-leaning independents who caucus with them will hold at least 48 seats in the Senate — far more than enough to filibuster when they want to obstruct the Trump agenda. Incoming Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has already threatened a filibuster over a Supreme Court pick.

Republicans are now trying to figure out whether to use the budget process, which can avoid filibusters, to try to tackle tax reform or Obamacare.

Senate Democrats used the budget to ease passage of Obamacare in 2010, making it an attractive option for unwinding the law. But some lawmakers are more reticent about using the speedy process for tax reform, saying it makes more sense to go for a broad bipartisan deal that will have staying power.

A key player in those efforts is House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican. A significant part of Mr. Trump’s agenda will begin in that committee.

“We will be ready,” Mr. Brady said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends.” “It is really exciting. We have a president in Donald Trump who wants to fix this broken tax code, get the economy going. So House Republicans, we’ve had a head start on this for many years. We’re going to be ready to go.”

Mr. Brady is pushing a “Built for Growth” tax plan that would also reform the IRS.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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