Return to Transcripts main page


Paul Ryan Weekly Press Conference. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 8, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:27] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so we're waiting right now to hear from the House Speaker Paul Ryan. We have our camera there trained on the lectern in the Capital Visitors Center where he's going to give his weekly address and catch us up on what has been really a pretty eventful day that we're expecting ahead of us. This budget vote, by midnight, to avoid a government shutdown. The speaker has said he has the votes to get the bill passed. Well, that's despite demands from Democrats that the speaker commit to a vote on an immigration bill that addresses the fate of DREAMers.

So joining me now to discuss are CNN national politics reporter, M.J. Lee. We have CNN political analyst and "Washington Examiner" correspondent, David Drucker. And CNN senior political reporter, Nia- Malika Henderson.

David, he says he has the votes. He said he needs Democrats. Unclear if the House Freedom Caucus, conservative Republicans will go along with this. But we just spoke to Congressman Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Dem caucus, and he said they're not whipping the votes, they're waiting to see what's up -- oh, wait, let's listen. The House speaker on the Hill now.


Our government has no higher responsibility than to support our men and women who are in harm's way. For months now, we have been working to get our military the resources it needs to keep the peace. This budget agreement delivers on that commitment. It fully funds our national defense at levels that Secretary Mattis requested. It provided what the Pentagon needs to restore our military's edge for years to come. As Secretary Mattis said yesterday, I quote, "Congressional action will ensure our military can defend our way of life."

Now, that mission is hard enough, especially in the time of rapidly evolving threats. But our military's job has become exponentially harder because of the staggering readiness crisis that it is facing. I know I come up here and read off a whole bunch of statistics, this is a statistic that really gets to me. In 2017, we lost 80 servicemembers in accidents, in training incidents, nearly four times more than we lost in combat. In 2017, we lost 80 servicemembers in accidents and training incidents, about four times as many people we lost in combat. Just think about that. With better training and equipment, many of these deaths could have been prevented. This is a sad and tragic state of affairs. And this is why we can never allow anyone to politicize our military or use our troops as bargaining chips. The stakes are too high for this.

[11:35:16] Let me say one more thing. I know there's a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That's a commitment that I share. To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one the president will sign. We must pass this first, though, so we can get on to that. Please know we're committed to getting this done.

Before I turn it over to Chairman Thornberry, I want to take a moment and thank him. I want to thank Mac Thornberry, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and all the members of the Armed Services Committees, Republicans and Democrats. Their leadership and their unwavering commitment to our servicemembers and families made this budget agreement possible. They live and breathe these problems. They know these issues. They know all the people who are fighting to keep us safe. They can tell you as well as anyone how critical that is that we get this done.

Chairman Thornberry?


And all of us on the Armed Services Committee are extremely grateful for the speaker's leadership in putting, fixing the military as a priority.

Let me just remind you all of a couple of statistics. When the House passed our defense authorization bill, at exactly the same numbers that are in the cap deal that we'll vote on today, the vote was 344 to 81. When we voted on the conference report, at exactly the same defense levels that are in the cap deal today, the vote was 356-70. In the Senate, the votes were 89-8, and the conference report was a voice vote. My point is there's widespread agreement in both parties that we have cut the military too much, that our servicemembers are suffering as a result, and that we need to do better. This cap deal that will be voted on today is at exactly the same funding levels as the bill that I just read the votes for. My view is that this, fixing the military is the dominant priority. We have to fix the military. I know members on both sides have other concerns. I wouldn't do this cap deal the same way, but we owe it to the men and women who are risking their lives for us to give them the best equipment, the best training, the best support that this nation can provide. And this agreement begins to do that for the first time in a long time.

Now I'll turn to a combat veteran herself, the gentle lady from Arizona, Martha McSally.


Good morning. I'm Martha McSally. I'm a retired Air Force colonel, A-10 pilot. I spent 26 years in uniform and now I deploy to Washington, D.C. One of the reasons why many of my fellow vets, like Mr. Gallagher

here, and I came here was we really felt it was important for those of us who served to be here when decisions like this are being discussed, debated and voted on. We need veterans in Congress in order to be a voice at the table, and we have been tirelessly advocating and working with our chairman and leadership to be that voice for our troops.

When we talk about these 80 people who were killed in these accidents, these are real families who are having flags handed to them. And as having been a commander, and seeing the impacts, a very dangerous thing we do in the military, when we're training as well as in combat. It is often a combination of things -- we call it the safety chain of events, --that ends up with a mishap. It is a combination of a lack of training, lack of resources, lack of hours, lack of experienced maintainers or experienced pilots, and that all that comes together under difficult conditions, and then maybe the last thing happens, and they lose their lives. And so that is what we have been seeing happening after the dangerous cuts in our military from the last administration. It has been atrophying year and year and year after year and our troops are paying the price. We have the most amazing men and women that have raised their right hand and taken an oath to defend us, and they're over there right now, keeping us safe. And they're at bases all over America now, training and ready for what might come next. And we owe it to them to give them everything they need and not play politics with them and their equipment. They're ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice for us and we need people to stop playing politics with their lives and with everything they need in order to defend us.

There's a lot of things we also need to work on. And there's a lot of issues related to our fiscal responsibility, we have to get to those. We have got to work together to get to those and get our spending under control. But we have got to make sure that right now we give the troops what they need to keep them safe, to keep them alive and to keep us safe because that price is one that we don't want to pay.

So I am glad that we finally were able to get to a place, working with our chairman, our leadership here, Secretary Mattis, and commander-in- chief who has the commitment to make sure our troops are supported, trained, and ready to do their job and their mission. And we have got to get these resources to them right now and stop playing politics with what they need.

Thank you.

RYAN: Christine?

[11:40:37] REP. LIZ CHENEY, (D), WYOMING: Thank you very much.

You know, it is a very sobering experience as a member of Congress to have a secretary of defense say to you that no foe in the field has done more harm to our military than the Budget Control Act, sequestration, the policies of the last administration. That's where we are today. We have come to this place where we all, everybody on this stage, I would say everybody in the Republican conference, understands we have got to deal with the debt issue. There's no question about it. We cannot do it on the backs of the men and women serving us. We don't have time on our side. We have to get the resources to them right away, as quickly as we can.

And I would also say to my good friends in the Freedom Caucus, that we got these numbers, we got where we are because we were all unified. We stayed together. And I would ask them not to quit before we get this across the finish line. We need to stay unified, get the budget deal passed, so we can turn to the kinds of reforms that are crucial in terms of overall budget process. It is fundamentally important.

As we're having debates as Republicans, as members of the House, I can tell you that we all keep very much in mind the moms and dads out there, some of whom are in our own conference, whose sons and daughters are deploying. And we cannot be in a situation where we are letting our political debates, our political fights, our arguments, get in the way of getting them the resources they need in this increasingly dangerous world to protect and defend every one of us. It is our most sacred obligation.

I'm very proud and honored to stand on this stage. I'm grateful for the hard work of the speaker, of the chairman, of Mike and Martha, and all of our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee. And I'll be proud to cast my vote in favor of this deal to get the military the resources they need.

Thank you.

RYAN: Mike Gallagher, from Wisconsin.


Before running for office, I spent seven years on active duty in the Marine Corps. And we used to have a saying in the Marine Corps, "Ride to the sound of the guns," which basically means, if you see a problem, you don't run away. You don't punt that problem to someone else. You confront it, head on. You do your best to fix it, no matter how difficult that is. That's why I ran for office. That's what we have an opportunity to do today, to end the devastating cuts to our national defense.

So to my colleagues who have concerns, I get it. I just would say two things. One, neglecting our defense is not a recipe for long-term savings. As we have seen, time and again, throughout history, weakness invites aggression, which costs us an exorbitant amount of money when we have to rearm, and we slide into conflict on someone else's terms. Finally, I would say, I know I've been here a year. I literally got lost trying to find this place here today. But it strikes me it is always easy to vote no. You can always find some excuse to vote no on a bill. But the American people sent us here to ride to the sound of the guns and to fix problems like this, no matter how difficult that may be.

So thank you.

RYAN: Any questions? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So Leader Pelosi had her big show on the floor

last night, lasted over eight hours. Why are you insisting on this being a bill that the president will sign when Mitch McConnell says any bill that gets 60 is going to --


RYAN: First of all -- my hat is off to her. I don't know if I could have handled that for eight hours. That was pretty darn impressive. You're right. She wasn't wearing these kinds of shoes. I would have gone in the bathroom well before then. I got to tell you. So, you know, impressive. First, we want a DACA solution.

Guess what? In order to shift our focus and get on to the next big priority, which is a DACA solution, we got to get this budget agreement done so we can go and focus on this. And I said it once and I'll say it again, we will bring a DACA solution to the floor. As far as the Senate is concerned, first, I think it is important to see what they -- if they can produce a bill and what they can produce. Our system works different than their system. The leader would say the same thing. And so I can't speak to what our rule is going to look like. I can say that we're going to bring a DACA solution to the floor because we want to solve this problem.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, couple of your colleagues mentioned this, I know where you are on the defense side of this. On the nondefense side, disaster relief, the big question is echoing what you're hearing from some of your conservative colleagues, would House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan have supported this bill?

[11:45:01] RYAN: Yes, because I wrote the first one. I did the first Murray Ryan -- called Murray Ryan. She calls it Ryan Murray. My niece's name is Murray Ryan, I call it Murray Ryan. I did the first one. Why? Because I didn't want to see the sequester hit the military. I supported the second one, which was the Boehner deal, why? Because I didn't want to see the sequester hit the military. I -- we're doing this one, why? Because we don't want to see the sequester hit the military.

Now, having said all of that, there are other good things in here. This is a bipartisan bill. Just like Leader Schumer said, you get some things you like, you give the other side things they like. That's what bipartisan compromise is all about. And I think on the net, this is a very good solution.

And as to the debt and deficit concerns, most of this domestic spending as you pointed out is one-time spending. It is hurricane relief. We're not going to rebuild Houston, not going to rebuild Florida, not going to help Puerto Rico, or the fires in California? Those are things that we have to do because our fellow citizens in these disaster-ravaged areas need assistance and that is a proper role for the federal government. So a lot of that spending is one-time spending. The other domestic spending is something we all agree on. We have an

opioid crisis in America. Let's get on with fixing it. We think we can get close on cancer research and get something cures. Let's keep that going. We all know we want to work on infrastructure, so we're getting a good down statement on infrastructure. There's other good reforms in this.

One more thing I'll say, I think this budget process is broken. Here we are, with another C.R., C.R., C.R. omnibus. That's why something we put in here that I feel very passionate about is having a budget process reform dialogue. We have had a one-sided dialogue in the House among House Republicans. I've been working on this pretty much my whole adult life. We need to get the Senate involved in a conversation so we can have a budget process and an appropriations process that works. The House passed all of its appropriation bills this year, before the deadline in September. So we're doing our work here. But the Senate has a different system. And as much as we are frustrated by that system, it isn't working. And that is why we have a joint select committee between Republicans and Democrats, Senators and House members, to figure out how we fix this budget process so that it works more smoothly in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, the tax cuts are starting to kick in now. And this bill will put the deficit over a trillion dollars this year. And probably over a trillion dollars next year. These are supposed to be good times. Are the times going to be that good to close that deficit?

RYAN: Yes. So, by the way, economic growth is one of the critical ingredients to getting debt under control. The military is not the reason we have got fiscal problems. It is entitlements. And that's why I keep telling you, look, the budget we passed this last year, that was the best, the biggest, the most conservative budget Congress has ever passed, something like $7.4 trillion in spending. We have shown, us, House Republicans, what you need to do to fully deal with the debt crisis. And it is entitlement reform. We have got more work to do with all of our friends on the other side of the aisle, other side of the rotunda.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Back on immigration, the president is known to change his mind from time to time. Why not allow a vote on a bipartisan plan and then see if he'll support it?

RYAN: Look, I want to make sure that we get it done right the first time. I don't want to just risk a veto. I want to actually get it done the first time, and I think we can get there. I'm confident we can bring a bipartisan solution to the floor that can get signed into law and solve this problem. We want a DACA solution. We want an immigration solution. I'm confident we can get there. And, by the way, getting this budget agreement done, allows us to shift our focus on the next big priority, which has a deadline, which is this issue.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There say great deal of spending. You're speaking to why you're supporting it. I'm wondering if you think the spending levels are sustainable after these two years or another budget. And I'm wondering if all five of you read this bill. This is a short turn around for a very large bill.

RYAN: Obviously, we were very involved in this. This gives the authorizers and the appropriators the money to go write the details of this bill for the March 23rd deadline.

But let me back it up. Remember why we have the BCA in the first place. Remember the old super committee? Remember when President Obama said, we'll set up the super committee to go do entitlement reform, and if that doesn't work, then this thing kicks in? That's what happened. So the original plan, which never came to be -- and we can go point fingers, but the fact is it didn't happen -- the entitlement reforms that were necessary did not occur. And then the sequester kicked in. So the sequester is a very crude tool, which puts the cuts where they don't belong on our military. And we need to get back to focusing on the true driver of our debt crisis. It's really health care, inflation, entitlements. These are very important programs that were written in the 20th century that aren't working the way they could and should in the 21st century, which are giving us a debt crisis, coupled with the fact we have a challenge. We've got Baby Boomers declining and fewer following them in the work force. We have to face up to those challenges and deal with it. That's why cutting the military doesn't solve the problem. We could get rid of the military, we would still have a deficit. That's the point.



[11:50:35] RYAN: Casey?

Yes, you get entitlement reform, you can solve a lot of these problems.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, on immigration, there's been lot of speculation on your own personal future here. This is a question that's bedeviled people. How does your personal future play into this here?


RYAN: It doesn't. Not at all. I don't think about it at all.


RYAN: You know what I know? The average family of four in America is getting a $2,000 tax cut. We've got billions of dollars that are going into bonuses. Jan and I were working the concession stand at St. John's last weekend and a friend of ours from home depot came up to us and said, thanks a lot for this raise. It's putting money in my pocket. That's all I know. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: All right. Speaker Paul Ryan wrapping up his weekly press conference.

We're back now with M.J. Lee, David Drucker and Nia-Malika Henderson.

We're going to sort of do a little discussion about what we just heard. I will say I was surprised we didn't hear anything about the chief of staff, John Kelly, when it comes to -- we didn't, right?


KEILAR: Just want to make sure I didn't miss it. And the resignation of the staff secretary and the fact that he emotionally abused his two ex-wives.

That aside, let's talk first about what we heard the speaker saying.

David, as you listened to this, about getting to a budget deal, what really stuck out to you?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what was very interesting is that even though Speaker Ryan has said earlier today, and other Republicans are saying they believe they have votes, it doesn't appear to us, I think from listening to this multi-pronged appeal here, that they literally have counted 218 votes. You heard Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former defense secretary, and a congresswoman from Wyoming, making a direct appeal to the Freedom Caucus that this needs their support. You heard Speaker Ryan and Martha McSally, a combat vet, an Air Force pilot, talking about training, and Republicans here are saying a lot of this money is going to go to military training to prevent future accidents. We've seen in recent years a raft of training accidents and just collisions at sea with Navy vessels and things like that. And this is not the appeal you need to make, I think, when you know the votes are in the bag. And I think that all of that questioning and all the focus there was sort of able to save the speaker from questions about Mr. Porter, and also the military parade, which has been a fascination to many people in Washington in the past couple days.

KEILAR: What stood out to you, M.J.?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: I think the fact that Paul Ryan got behind this podium, and not only did he sort of say, yes, we're going to look at immigration next, we're going to solve the DACA issue, he said he was making a personal commitment. Went so far as to say do not question my intention, my intention is to deal with DACA. Obviously, a lot of Democrats who are not on board or on the fence or have serious problems wanted that personal commitment, and the fact that he has gotten behind the podium and said this on camera, that this is personally coming from him, I think that's significant. But I think the question still is, are they going to get some Democratic votes because they'll need them.

(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: Because Speaker Pelosi said just a short time ago, "I hope that the speaker will man up and decide that we in the House can also have what Mitch McConnell guaranteed in the Senate, a vote, a vote on the floor."


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And it's not clear that's what he's guaranteeing. He's basically guaranteeing that he would put something on the floor that the president would agree to and sign. So we'll see if that's far enough for folks in the caucus, particularly the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They have come out to say no to this.

What is interesting here is that as much as they're making an appeal to sort of Republicans and progressives and folks like Democrats who are saying no, also making the appeal to moderate Democrats as well, right? You saw Martha McSally there. She's running in Arizona in the Senate against another Democrat, right, who is sort of a moderate Democrat. So they're trying to peel away as many folks as they can to get this thing over with.

KEILAR: I want to talk about scrutiny over John Kelly's rule, over the reporter who resigned yesterday after it became public that he allegedly abused his ex-wife. Some lawmakers are now raising some key questions. What did the White House chief of staff know and when? Listen to this.


[11:55:09] REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY, (D), NEW YORK: The staff secretary sees literally everything the president sees. And to have someone in that job for 14 months with no national security clearance is outrageous. And John Kelly owns that. And has some very tough questions to answer, not just about why he's still defending him, which is outrageous, but about why you would allow somebody to be in this position who can be so easily blackmailed. It's crazy.


KEILAR: Just a short time ago, Senator Kennedy, to our John Berman, "I don't care if you're a road scholar, you can't beat the hell out of your spouse." He said, "The chief of staff made a bad decision to keep Rob Porter on staff."

Just to put in context, a staff secretary, but this is a significant position.

HENDERSON: It's a significant, huge role in the White House. It's all about figuring out what the president should see and when he should see it. Whether it's executive orders, Porter would be vetting legal documents as well. And over the last many months, particularly once Reince Priebus was no longer in that chief of staff role, I think his profile in the White House and his portfolio certainly grew over these last months because he had the full faith of John Kelly, who, of course, is still now calling him a pretty good guy and saying that he's an honorable person.

KEILAR: M.J., you've spoken to Porter's two ex-wives who allege that he emotionally and physically abused them. What's interesting, though, is that you said, especially in light of Porter's vehement denial that any of this is true, he used the word vile to describe this. He clearly thinks this is a smear campaign. What did you get from your interviews with them?

LEE: First of all, I think it's worthy to note that on the FBI piece, these are two ex-wives that were interviewed by the FBI. And they both told me yesterday when they were interviewed about poor security clearance --

KEILAR: Security clearance, yes.

LEE: -- that they were honest with the FBI about their troubled marriages with Porter, about the fact that they felt like they were abused by him. So all of this information went to the FBI, according to these women. I guess the missing piece right now is how much of that information was conveyed to the White House, and who at the White House by the FBI?

In terms of just speaking with the women and sort of what frame of minds they were in, I will say, just having had extensive phone conversations with both of them, they are not interested, so they tell me, in seeing Rob Porter go down. They were not interested or motivated by, you know, final outcome in which his career would be ruined. The second ex-wife actually told me that the reason she decided to come out is because she saw that the first ex-wife had come out, and she felt like as a part of this "Me Too" movement, she didn't want her to stand alone.

KEILAR: All right, you guys. I really, really appreciate it. David Drucker, M.J. Lee and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you.

That's it for me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after a quick break.


[11:59:54] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Deadline day on Capitol Hill. And as Congress rushes to spend a giant new budget plan, many conservatives are asking what happened to Republican promises to shrink the deficit and balance the budget.

Plus, what did they know and when did they know it? Top White House officials defended and protected a top presidential --