Paul Ryan Says Obamacare Repeal, Immigration Reform Are Priorities

The Speaker of the House discussed GOP legislative agenda at GW during CNN town hall.

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan answers a question during a live CNN town hall discussion at George Washington University Thursday. (William Atkins/ GW Today)
January 13, 2017

By Kristen Mitchell

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans are moving as quickly as they can to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act during the first 100 days of President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

"We want to do this at the same time, and in some cases in the same bill," Mr. Ryan said during a CNN town hall at the George Washington University Thursday evening. "We want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time."

Mr. Ryan (R-Wisc.) said the ACA, nicknamed Obamacare, is collapsing under skyrocketing premiums and limited plan choices for many patients. He said people with pre-existing conditions should not be denied insurance. However, Senate Republicans voted against an amendment early Thursday that would protect those patients as part of their first step toward repealing the ACA.

The hour-long, prime-time town hall was moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper. Mr. Ryan talked his legislative priorities under the Trump administration, his plans for health care reform, immigration and what he thinks of Mr. Trump’s social media habits.

Mr. Ryan said he expects Mr. Trump will continue tweeting as president, and that it has been an effective way for him to communicate with supporters without going through traditional media. How his tweets will affect foreign and domestic policy is yet to be seen, Mr. Ryan said.

"I think he's going to keep doing this, and I think he's going to be probably a little more restrained in his tweets probably, but it's all relative," Mr. Ryan said. "But I do believe it's been extremely effective for getting elected president, I've got to tell you. He was able to touch and tap into people's hearts and minds."

Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan have a history of public disagreements. In May when it started to become clear Mr. Trump would be the Republican Party’s nominee, Mr. Ryan said he was not ready to endorse him for the presidency. In August Mr. Trump suggested he might support Mr. Ryan’s primary opponent. The two did not campaign together, but both candidates won over voters in Wisconsin.

Mr. Trump’s strong stance on illegal immigration has been popular among his supporters. An audience member from Arizona said her son was killed after a vehicle collision with an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record. She asked Mr. Ryan if he were going to stand up for Americans and against sanctuary cities where undocumented immigrants are not being held accountable.

The Trump administration has directed Congress to prioritize securing the southern border and deporting violent undocumented immigrants who have violated the law, Mr. Ryan said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan listens to an audience member during a CNN town hall about his party's legislative priorities under the Trump administration. (William Atkins/ GW Today)

A woman from Oklahoma told Mr. Ryan she was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was 11 years old but is now protected from deportation after qualifying for President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. With her young daughter at her side, she asked Mr. Ryan if he thought she should be deported.

“What we have to do is find a way that you can get right with the law, and we’re going to do this in a good way so that the rug doesn’t get pulled out from under you, and your family gets separated,” he said.

But DACA is unconstitutional, Mr. Ryan said, because President Obama created the program through an executive order to sidestep Congress. Mr. Trump is solely focused on deporting repeat offenders and violent criminals, Mr. Ryan said.

"I can see that you love your daughter, and you're a nice person who has a great future ahead of you, and I hope your future's here," he said.

Mr. Ryan also was asked about Russia’s election meddling. While he doesn’t believe Russia’s interference affected the outcome of the election, Mr. Ryan said the United States needs to adopt a stronger policy on dealing with Vladimir Putin.

"I really think a lot of the things that he is doing is to try to delegitimize the other democracies so that his illegitimate democracy doesn't look as illegitimate by comparison,” he said.

This is a contrast to Mr. Trump, who many have accused of being too friendly with Mr. Putin.

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was in Foggy Bottom on Monday to participate in a CNN town hall hosted by Chris Cuomo to discuss how progressives would govern under the Trump administration.

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