“What I’m trying to say is we should open up the process so that everyone can participate,” Ryan said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Furthermore, the Senate’s highway bill reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank. Although legislation reviving the 81-year-old lending institution has already passed the House—and there’s more than enough support to extend the bank’s charter in the Senate—Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders oppose it.
Ryan is well familiar with the highway bill: The Ways and Means Committee, which he chaired until last week, is responsible for half of its jurisdiction. The problem with the bill for many Republicans, apart from Ex-Im, is that the offsets cover only half of the bill’s six-year life span. For someone like Ryan who built his reputation on fiscal responsibility, the bill is hardly ideal. But while some have painted the bill as Ryan’s first big test, others cautioned that it will hardly be illustrative of how a Ryan House will work.
“Situations have come up and been dropped in his lap,” said a GOP leadership aide. “Things require action right away, and it’s not the process he would have preferred, but he’s going to deal with it in the best way that he can.”
Still, leadership will have to keep an eye on the process. With hundreds of amendments that could drastically change the bill, there is always the potential for poison pills. Any number of amendments could drive away Democrats or make the bill a nonstarter for conservatives, complicating passage, let alone a conference report.
Committee and leadership aides have said the House plans to let the amendment process play out and pass the bill with an understanding that Congress will find offsets to pay for the remainder of the bill later. Those would still have to pass both chambers, but the whole reauthorization would not need to be passed again. Ryan has been a proponent of using repatriation, or reclaimed tax money from offshore accounts, to pay for the remainder of the highway bill, and whether or not he wades into the policy from his perch as speaker will be instructive as to how he plans to rule.
That issue could be especially problematic because Ryan’s position butts heads with McConnell. In July, McConnell said he’s “skeptical” of using corporate-tax reform to pay for a long-term highway bill, preferring to tackle the entire tax code in a comprehensive manner.
Meanwhile, Republicans are still figuring out how to advance the defense-authorization measure. Staff sources said they could take up a veto override as early as this week. But it’s unlikely that Democrats would vote with Republicans to overturn the veto, because that would be viewed as a rebuke of President Obama, even though many of the issues he raised to justify his veto were resolved with the passage of the budget deal. What is more likely is that the committees craft a new bill with largely the same policy, but cutting $5 billion from the defense measure to put the bill in line with the terms of the budget deal.
Alex Rogers contributed to this article