Take-home pay is rising while unemployment falls, the military is getting stronger and help is on the way for Americans ensnared by addiction to opioids, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Monday, making the case for Republicans to retain control of Congress as he heads for the exits.
Mr. Ryan, who will retire after this year, also said the messy fight around Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation will help the GOP match the Democrats’ energy as the left pines for a “blue wave” that retakes the House and perhaps even the Senate.
“I can just see it from traveling around the country in the last few days,” Mr. Ryan, of Wisconsin, said at the National Press Club. “The Republican base is definitely animated after this.”
Mr. Ryan appeared as part of series of “better off now” speeches that argue the House GOP satisfied most of its covenant with voters in 2016, even if its bill to repeal and replace Obamacare never made it to President Trump’s desk.
He said Republicans kick-started America’s economic engine through deregulation, spurred oil production and made much-needed reforms to the Veterans Affairs Department, while stepping up the fight against dangerous gangs like MS-13 — a key talking point for President Trump.
“Today, our country is turning the corner. American families are better off now,” he said.
He said Democrats lent a hand on opioids and other achievements, yet warned a lurch to the left in 2019 would lead to government overreach and cater to the extreme “fringes” of American opinion.
He accused Democrats of responding to the GOP tax overhaul with outrage and little else. And he teed off on Democrats courting an effort to “abolish our health care system as we know it” through a socialist government-run system, saying the rival party has “gone off the rails.”
The speaker still thinks the House-passed health bill, which died in the Senate, is the best path to reform.
“You buy what you want to buy and here’s a refundable tax credit to purchase the plan of your choosing,” he said.
He said people with pre-existing medical conditions should be covered in high-risk pools divorced from the rest of the market, so healthier people can pay less.
Mr. Ryan also defended his party’s efforts to protect sympathetic “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, saying efforts to protect their status must be coupled with real measures against illegal immigration.
He said construction of Mr. Trump’s border wall has begun in “fits and starts” and there is a commitment to getting a bigger down payment on border security, though the fight will wait until December, after both parties avoided a pre-election spat that could have led to a federal shutdown.
“We saw a chance of getting the appropriations process to work more than we have in a long time,” Mr. Ryan said.
The speaker gave his full-throated defense of the GOP’s accomplishments in D.C. as both parties headed into full campaign mode across the country.
Democrats are betting that antipathy toward Mr. Trump’s abrasive style and policy moves, including a “zero tolerance” approach to illegal immigration that led to crying children being separated from their parents, will put more voters in their column.
They also feel they’ve won the messaging battle over the GOP tax plan, which Democrats cast as a giveaway to the rich, and point to polls that suggest Obamacare is more popular than ever.
Republicans, meanwhile, say voters will reward them for an economic upturn, keeping the promises Mr. Ryan outlined and refusing to back down after Justice Kavanaugh was accused at the 11th hour of sexual assault at a student party in the early 1980s.
“I’m done with elected politics as far as I know,” he said. “I don’t know what the next chapter is, politically speaking.”
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