- House speaker uses Library of Congress address to fault Obama
- Party agenda includes changes to military, revising welfare
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan spelled out Republican priorities for 2016 that he said will help America regain a lost national confidence, touching on familiar themes of job creation, welfare and tax reform, and modernizing the military.
"We want America to lead again," Ryan said in remarks Thursday at the Library of Congress, in what his office billed as a major address. "That is not the America we have now. The people are not confident."
Ryan, who took over as speaker from John Boehner a month ago, is seeking to assert himself in the position ahead of the 2016 election that will determine whether his Republican Party regains the White House and keeps control of both chambers of Congress.
His address was less a soaring call for unity on fixing critical problems than a recitation of long-voiced Republican and conservative policy themes. Ryan also criticized President Barack Obama.
Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, was elected House speaker on Oct. 29 after conservative opposition forced Boehner out. A number of Republicans rebelled against Boehner’s willingness to compromise with Democrats to pass major legislation, including funding the government.
"I don’t think all that many people are walking away from this presidency thinking, ‘That went well,’" Ryan said in his speech. "So, our number one goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda."
‘Work in Progress’
Ryan conceded the party’s efforts remain a "work in progress" and that Obama will continue to be a reason why Republicans in Congress won’t be able to accomplish everything they think they need within the next year.
"Even if we can’t move mountains, we can make moves in the right direction," said Ryan.
"We want America to be confident again," he said, citing an agenda including job creation, cutting government spending, and repealing Obamacare.
The former House Ways and Means Committee chairman reiterated that a tax-system overhaul is needed. "The only way to fix our broken tax code is to simplify, simplify, simplify," he said.
"Close all those loopholes and use that money to cut tax rates for everybody. Take the seven tax rates we have now and collapse them to two or three," said Ryan.
Ryan also discussed the military and national security, saying, "Our adversaries don’t respect us. Too many people think a warning from the United States is the hollow protest of a has-been."
"That has to change. We need to build a 21st century military. And I don’t mean just pour more money into the Pentagon. We have to reform the Pentagon, so it can adapt to new threats. Acquire new capabilities more quickly — whether it’s advanced missile defense or directed energy weapons," he said.
Ryan touched on the conservative principle that states should be permitted to make more decisions on how to carry out programs, including in revising entitlements.
"In 1996, we created a work requirement for welfare. But that was just one program. We have to fix all the others now. I’d combine a lot of them and send that money back to the states for better poverty-fighting solutions," Ryan said. "Require everyone who can to work."