Ryan Looks Past GOP Health Care Failure to Tax Reform

Image: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks during a press conference
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 29, 2017.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

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By Dartunorro Clark

As Republicans reel from a stinging defeat on health care, House Speaker Paul Ryan is looking ahead to something he says his party can get done this year: Tax reform.

The Wisconsin Republican said health care was a complicated legislative effort for the party to find consensus, but the GOP — along with President Donald Trump — can all agree on streamlining taxes.

"There’s not a complete consensus on how best to do health care reform. On tax reform, we have that consensus," he told FOX Business in an interview that aired Friday.

Repealing Obamacare had appeared that it would be an easy lift for the past seven years on the campaign trail and when Trump promised it would be done "on day one."

Senate Republicans failed to pass a pared-down Obamacare repeal bill — dubbed the “skinny repeal — early Friday on a vote of 49-51. Three Republicans — John McCain, R-Ariz., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska — broke ranks and sided with Democrats to defeat the measure.

Ryan said he's sure that the moderates and conservatives in the party could come together and pass comprehensive tax reform without major ideological differences blocking action.

"I feel much more confident that we’re going to stick the landing on tax reform because we have now said, ‘We have consensus, here’s the framework — let’s go get it done," he said.

"It is more important for us than anything that we get tax reform done because we think it is absolutely critical for strong economic growth," he added. "So, getting consensus between the White House, the Senate and the House, on a way forward on tax reform makes it that much more of a viable enterprise."

However, a budget fight could hamper plans for tax reform.

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are pushing for $400 billion in cuts, while moderates want to keep current budget levels, NBC News previously reported. Republican leadership has proposed a compromise: $200 billion in cuts.

The amount of money slashed from the budget resolution determines how much less Republicans will have to work with on tax reform.

Ryan told FOX Business he is ready to make concessions, particularly dropping plans for a border adjustment tax, which would have given greater tax preferences to American companies that export goods in comparison to firms that import.

But getting tax reform moving may not be easy as Ryan is making because of divisions in the GOP and working with a White House that is mired in investigations.

Other items on the GOP agenda include the upcoming debt ceiling that must be lifted by the end of the fiscal year, which is an issue that has for years split the party.

This past May, Ryan also read off a to-do list of some of the Republican agenda, which includes work on "closing the skill gap, streamlining (information technology) to get waste out of government, (making) the Pentagon more efficient."

Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.