Excerpts from The Associated Press Newsmaker interview conducted Wednesday with House Speaker Paul Ryan:
On whether the Republicans’ tax plan will add to the deficit:
AP: So to get in to some of the details of what you’re planning, will you insist that your plan is “revenue-neutral,” that it will not add to the deficit?
RYAN: Well, I’m not going to get into baselines and those issues simply because our tax writers are going to be putting the paper up pretty soon. We have details forthcoming and we’ll see what those details are when we release the template, the week of the 25th and on.
AP: So you are not prepared to say that you are insisting on revenue-neutral tax reform that does not add to the deficit?
RYAN: We want pro-growth tax reform that will get the economy growing. That will get people back to work. That will get middle-income taxpayers a tax cut and that will put American businesses in a better competitive playing field so that we keep American businesses in America. That is more important than anything else, because if we have tax reform that doesn’t actually fix our problems, then we’ll lose more and more businesses and the deficit will go even higher. So it’s really important that we fix the mass of errors we have in our tax system. That’s more important than anything else. And so what you’re going to see is us pushing forward on a tax reform plan that is pro-growth, pro-jobs and puts America in a much more competitive position. And those other details are details that are going to be worked out by our tax writing committees.
On President Donald Trump’s deal with Democratic leaders on the debt ceiling and hurricane relief:
RYAN: He wanted to clear the decks for tax reform and he didn’t want to spend weeks haggling over short-term measures while a hurricane was on its way to hitting Florida, which has now hit. So, understandably, he wanted to get this stuff out of the way so he could go focus on the bigger things — rapid hurricane response — and I think he was also looking for a bipartisan moment in the face of these hurricanes. Then he wanted to clear the decks for tax reform. As a person who’s been watching credit markets for many, many years, I just strongly believe that these debt instruments need to be longer-term, because I worry about what it does to credit markets and what it does to interest rates. So I just feel strongly about longer-term extensions in these things because I don’t think you want to play politics with the credit markets. And that’s what I believed then, it’s what I believe now. But the president was basically trying to say I want to get this stuff dealt with. I want to get it out of the way. We want to help these people with hurricanes. And let’s go focus on the big picture like tax reform. So that’s basically what I see his motivation having been and it’s reasonable that that’s the position he took.
On whether illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children should have a pathway to citizenship:
RYAN: Well, I want it. I don’t want to negotiate to the media on what this package will look like …
AP: But your own belief?
RYAN: But I do believe that kicking these 800,000 kids out to countries that they’ve probably not been to since they were toddlers, in countries that speak languages they may not even know, is not in our nation’s interest. So I do believe that there’s got to be a solution to this problem. But at the same time I think it’s only reasonable, it makes perfect common sense, that we deal with the problem that was the root cause of this, which is we do not have operational control of our borders. We are not adequately enforcing our laws. And so it makes perfect sense to fix the source of the problem, the cause, while we deal with the symptom of the problem, the DACA issue, so that we don’t end up with a DACA problem 10 years from now. That’s just completely reasonable. And that’s the kind of conversation, a consensus, that I think we can land on that will have to do. And that’s the kind of conversation we’re just now getting to have with our members.
On whether he supports Trump’s plan to build a wall along the entire border with Mexico:
RYAN: The problem our members have, legitimately, is what they really worry is if we don’t actually get security of our borders and enforce our laws then we’re just going to make the same mistakes we made in the past. And that’s why we have to have these things dealt with.
AP: Does that mean a wall?
RYAN: I think the wall actually works. I think it will look at — the reason I say that is because I went down to the Rio Grande and the Border Patrol themselves told me, “Yeah, there are certain spaces where we actually need a physical barrier.”
AP: But not the entire length of the border.
RYAN: I agree with that. That’s right. So I think circumstances on the ground should dictate what you need at various places. Some places in mountainous areas you need something like a smart fence. In parts of the Rio Grande River Valley you need a levee because there’s a huge flooding issue. So there are circumstances on the ground that should dictate how we do border security, but doing border security should be not a negotiable thing. We should have security of our border.