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Paul Ryan says House GOP will be focused and productive

Paul Ryan was elected speaker of the House on Thursday.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans will be a more focused, open and productive force under his leadership in an effort to become a more effective check on President Barack Obama.

On the first weekend since taking the reins from John Boehner of Ohio, the Wisconsin Republican said on NBC News' "Meet the Press" Sunday that he will offer a clear agenda on the economy, health care and foreign policy. On CNN's"State of the Union," Ryan also suggested that hard-line Republicans must wait to try to defund Planned Parenthood until after Congress passes a new government spending bill in December.


Ryan inherits a Republican conference that's divided over whether to cooperate with Obama and Democrats in Congress to forge agreements — such as the two-year budget deal passed Oct. 28 by the House — or instead use their power over the nation's purse to try to force policy concessions from the president.

"We do not like the direction that the president is taking the country," Ryan said. "That means we have to be a proposition party. We have to be the alternative party."

Ryan, 45, appeared on five talk shows Sunday, promising to hold more open discussions about emerging legislation, a key demand of the House Freedom Caucus of hardline Republicans. Ryan said he wanted to have the House "working like it was intended to work."

"I can't pick up where John (Boehner) left off. It has to be done differently," Ryan said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Republicans also "need to be very clear about what it is we can and cannot achieve, and not set expectations that we know we can't reach" because of opposition by Obama and Senate Democrats, Ryan said on CNN.

A threat by members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus to shut down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood contributed to Boehner's decision to resign. The issue may arise again before the latest short-term government spending bill expires Dec. 11.


Ryan said that even though he thinks Planned Parenthood shouldn't get a "red cent" from the government, a new special committee set up to investigate the reproductive health-care provider should be allowed to do its work before lawmakers make a decision.

"By not controlling the process so tightly held here in the speakership, by letting it go forward, I don't know what the outcome is going to be," Ryan said.

Ryan said that under his leadership the appropriation process, in which Congress funds the government by passing 12 separate spending bills, would be back on track. Some Republicans have criticized Boehner for failing to pass appropriations bills and being forced to negotiate budget deals with Obama.

Boehner, interviewed on CNN, said he "laid every ounce of Catholic guilt I could on him" to persuade Ryan to run for speaker.

"It was obvious to me that he was the right person for the job, and I had to do everything I could to convince him," Boehner said.

One of Ryan's demands in agreeing to seek the speakership was that he be allowed to continue spending weekends with his family in Janesville, Wisconsin, instead of traveling around the country raising funds for fellow Republicans. Still, he said on NBC that his commitment to family doesn't mean he would support paid family leave legislation.


"Because I love my children and I want to be home on Sundays and Saturdays like most people, doesn't mean I'm for taking money from hardworking taxpayers to create a brand new entitlement program," Ryan said.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Sunday that Ryan "is in a unique position to take action on behalf of millions of other moms and dads."

"Instead he shirks responsibility and brushes the issue away by raising a favorite specter of the right -- government mandates," said Wasserman Schultz, a House member from Florida.

House Republicans won't be offering legislation on immigration reform, a policy priority Ryan had championed as a regular member of the House, Ryan said, adding that Obama has attempted to go around Congress with executive orders, making him an unreliable partner. The House would restrict itself to passing smaller bills on border enforcement or interior security if there's consensus among Republicans, he said.

"I don't believe we should advance comprehensive immigration legislation with a president who has proven himself untrustworthy," Ryan said.

In an appearance on FOX's "Fox News Sunday," Ryan said Republicans had been "too timid on policy. We've been too timid on vision."

The new speaker said he didn't intend to take a more combative tack with Republicans in the Senate. "Throwing Republicans under the bus is not in my job description," said Ryan.

The speaker said on ABC's "This Week" that he's staying neutral on the presidential race, although he stands by previous criticism of Republican contender Donald Trump's comment that Mexican immigrants were rapists and were bringing drugs into the U.S.


"What really matters is not the personality, but the policy," Ryan said.

On CNN, Ryan, who was Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012 when the former Massachusetts governor lost to Obama, said the idea that taking the difficult job of speaker may end any chance that he'll be able to run for president "doesn't really bother me."

"If I really wanted to be president, I would have run in this cycle for the presidency. I had the chance and opportunity to do so," he said. "So, I'm perfectly happy and content with this decision."