Tuesday morning began with the House Republican conference laying out Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats on the seat of every GOP House member. It continued with Ryan praising Trump and refusing to criticize his selection of former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon to serve as a senior adviser in the administration.
During the GOP leadership’s weekly press conference, Ryan was read some of the past headlines from Breitbart. There were stories that criticized Ryan for sending his kids to a Catholic school, attacked him for having a “fence around his mansion,” and tried to unseat him as both speaker and a party member.
Emails that The Hill obtained show Bannon wrote, “Paul Ryan is the enemy,” adding that he wants him gone by the spring. Bannon also said on his radio show that Ryan is constantly “rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second.”
Twice presented with an opportunity to speak out about Bannon’s appointment to a position that’s been described as a “co-equal” with the chief of staff on Tuesday, Ryan passed. “I’m not looking backwards,” the speaker said. “I’m looking forwards.”
“The president is going to be judged on his results,” he added. “This is a person who helped him win an incredible victory on an incredible campaign.”
Ryan began the press conference by welcoming everybody to “the dawn of a new, unified, Republican government.”
“Feels really good to say that,” Ryan said.
During the campaign, Ryan had repeatedly called Trump out for some of his most egregious statements and actions. He told Republicans he wouldn’t campaign with him after audio surfaced of Trump telling Billy Bush that he forcibly grabs women by the genitals and kisses them. Ryan reversed this position in the closing days of the campaign, but it’s no secret that the speaker was never entirely on the “Trump train.”
That seems to have changed, however.
Ryan told reporters on Tuesday that Republicans were working with the Trump administration to put together a plan for the lame-duck session and 2017. There was no indication that the speaker had any reservations about the incoming president.
Part of that agenda will be whether Republicans pass a short-term continuing resolution, which would allow a new Congress to pass a large spending bill early in the Trump administration, or to just pass a large spending bill now so that the New York businessman doesn’t deal with spending bills until October.
But if you thought Ryan or other Republicans had any real say over that or any other decision, Trump’s first official supporter in Congress, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) put that to rest.
Asked on Tuesday if Ryan or Trump was setting the agenda, Collins was emphatic.
“President-elect Trump is the president. He is the leader of the Republican Party,” Collins said. “He had down-ballot coattails. We are where we are because of Donald J. Trump. So there’s no question, he will be setting the agenda and the vision.”
“We will work with him through Paul Ryan,” Collins added.
Ryan seems to agree.