WASHINGTON -- Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) left the door open on Tuesday to allowing controversial riders to be added to a forthcoming budget bill, which could put the government on the path to a shutdown.
Ryan's predecessor, John Boehner (R-Ohio), crafted a deal on his way out the door that sets spending levels and lifts the debt ceiling, but Congress still needs to pass an omnibus budget bill to fill out the details of what will be funded.
If House Republicans attach riders to that bill, things could get messy ahead of a Dec. 11 deadline to fund the government. Democrats have vowed to oppose an omnibus with controversial riders attached, such as one pushed by members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus that aims to defund Planned Parenthood. President Barack Obama has also threatened to veto legislation with such provisions attached.
During his first press conference as speaker on Tuesday, Ryan wouldn't say whether he would stop factions in his party from tethering provisions to the bill that could hurt its chances of passing.
"We have a tough deadline of Dec. 11. We’ve got not a lot of time between now and then, so we are going to have to put together appropriations," Ryan said. "This is the legislative branch and the power of the purse rests within the legislative branch and we fully expect that we are going to exercise that power."
In comments that were likely directed at the White House, Ryan emphasized the powers of Congress and said that under his leadership, House Republicans plan to "go on offense on ideas."
"I think we need to be more specific, we need to be more bold," he said. "We are in a generational defining moment."
Conservatives in the House, who are credited with edging Boehner out of the speakership, have praised Ryan's push to open the legislative process. Still, the hard-liners could easily turn on Ryan if he attempts to push through a "clean" budget bill without taking a stand on riders they deem essential.
There is also a chance that provisions like the Planned Parenthood defunding measure could be tethered instead to a long-term highway funding bill, which is must-pass legislation. Sticking to the promises he made to the Republican conference, Ryan said Tuesday that the process for the highway bill, which the House is working on this week, will be completely open.
"This week you will see the highways bill is a good way to start, we are opening up the process. We are allowing members to participate in a way the founders intended," Ryan said.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said members have already filed 280 amendments to the highway funding bill, which would pay for the nation's transportation infrastructure for three years.
"We are going to go through them," Shuster said of the amendments. "It's going to be a long three days."
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) backed up Ryan’s comments.
“Of course there will be some riders in appropriations bills,” McConnell said after caucus lunches, which included a visit from Ryan.
When pressed on whether this meant riders like the one to defund Planned Parenthood would be included, McConnell said lawmakers would “negotiate all of that through the appropriations process.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed back against the suggestion that Democrats would also want riders on the omnibus bill.
“We’re not looking for any riders,” Reid said. “I’m confident that if we move, and Republicans work with us to get an omnibus bill done, I think we can work out the poison riders that they’ve been talking about.”
This story has been updated to include comment from McConnell and Reid.
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