House Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday an end-of-year deal to fund the government and solidify hundreds of billions of dollars of tax relief was a “cake already baked” before he stepped into leadership, but that he made the best of it and seized key GOP wins that set the table for a productive 2016.
The $1.1 trillion spending bill lifted the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports, though conservatives grumbled that it unraveled the budget gains Republicans won during the previous four years without winning any of the restrictions they wanted to impose on President Obama.
They wanted to reel in his expansive use of executive power, his new rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions and his plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. this fiscal year.
GOP leaders also redirected a fight over Planned Parenthood funding to an Obamacare repeal bill that will be vetoed by Mr. Obama.
“In divided government, you don’t get everything you want,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So we fought for as much as we could get. We advanced our priorities and principles. Not every single one of them, but many of them. And then we’re going to pick up next year and pick up where we left off and keep going for more.”
He also defended a $620 billion package of tax breaks for businesses and families, rejecting critics who say it increases the deficit in a massive give-away to special interests.
Rather, Mr. Ryan said Congress maintained the status quo, making relief permanent instead of coming back each year to extend a patchwork of breaks.
“We’re keeping taxes where they are, because there’s an artificial problem in the law that says these taxes will raise. Not raising taxes is not cutting taxes. It’s not raising taxes,” he said.
Mr. Ryan also said he doesn’t pay attention to conservative talk show hosts who say he caved to Democrats and the White House.
He already is looking for to better days ahead, mentioning the year 2016 nine times during a wide-ranging interview with NBC host Chuck Todd.
“The members that asked me to become speaker, that elected me to speaker, know that I come from the conservative movement and that I’m a movement conservative with an eye on the prize, which is actually achieving success,” he said.
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