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This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

John Boehner may be of­fi­cially re­tired, but the barn is not clean just yet.

Speak­er Paul D. Ry­an gaveled the House in­to ses­sion for the first time Monday morn­ing and read an of­fi­cial no­tice that Boehner is out. But the lo­g­jam of le­gis­la­tion Boehner left be­hind has yet to be fully cleared. First off, the House will take up a six-year $325 bil­lion high­way au­thor­iz­a­tion this week, show­cas­ing Ry­an’s vaunted open pro­cess. And the cham­ber may take a second crack at the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, which Pres­id­ent Obama ve­toed last month.

The bills set up an in­ter­est­ing test for Ry­an: Will the newly min­ted speak­er al­low a massive high­way bill that is not fully paid for to pass? Will he try to change a de­fense bill that in­cludes pay-fors that are al­most uni­ver­sally re­garded as gim­micky?

Ry­an’s of­fice said the speak­er is em­phas­iz­ing an open pro­cess above all on the high­way bill, with a de­sire to push the le­gis­la­tion in­to a con­fer­ence with the Sen­ate. The House, however, is es­sen­tially tak­ing up the Sen­ate’s bill, sub­sti­tut­ing its own policy, but keep­ing the up­per cham­ber’s pay-fors. In ad­di­tion, the Rules Com­mit­tee is set to wade through some 300 or more amend­ments this week. And while not all the meas­ures will be made in or­der, the House floor will likely be busy in­to the even­ings this week with de­bate over trans­port­a­tion fund­ing.

“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

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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