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Paul Ryan: Trump Achieved 'An Enormous Political Feat'

The house speaker avoided a braggadocios victory lap, instead simply crediting President-elect Donald Trump for a "political feat".
Image: Paul Ryan
House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks in Janesville, Wis., on Wednesday.Paul Sancya / AP

The morning after an unexpected rout by Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan avoided a braggadocios victory lap, instead simply crediting President-elect Donald Trump for a "political feat" and saying Republicans will do their part to help heal a divided country.

"What Donald Trump just pulled off was an enormous political feat," Ryan said in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, in his first remarks after Republicans maintained control of the House and the Senate and won the presidency. He added that Trump "earned a mandate."

Results show that while Trump won the Electoral College, he is currently losing the popular vote, perhaps challenging the notion of a "mandate."

But the results did defy what public polling as well as polling conducted by Republicans privately that calculated that the GOP would lose at least a dozen seats in the House. It looks as if losses will total just a handful.

"Donald Trump provided the kind of coattails that got a lot of people over the finish line," Ryan said.

He also noted that Trump won Wisconsin for the first time for Republicans since 1984.

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Now that Trump has won, Ryan said the Republican Party must "work to heal the division" created in the country through a divisive campaign.

Perhaps he was speaking just as much to the divisions in the Republican Party as to those in the nation.

Ryan's relationship with Trump has been contentious throughout the election. He has spent the past six months carefully navigating the controversial phenomenon of Trump. It took Ryan nearly one month to endorse Trump after the real estate mogul clinched the Republican nomination. Then just weeks before Election Day, Ryan said he could no longer defend the Trump and would focus "entirely" on maintaining control of the House.

David McIntosh, a former member of Congress who now heads the Club for Growth, a small-government group, said that Ryan had been “awfully reactive” to Trump.

“I think he’s handled the last several weeks as a guy who’s been tossed around rather than driving events,” McIntosh said.

Members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 ultra-conservative representatives, who played an instrumental role in the ouster of the last speaker, John Boehner, have raised the prospect of challenging Ryan over his speakership. But with a Republican sweep, Ryan's speakership is no longer in jeopardy.

Ryan says he's focused on the work ahead. He has spoken to Trump twice — once last night and once this morning — and that he's confident that they can immediately start working on a Republican agenda.

Ryan indicated that addressing problems with the Affordable Care Act will be central to Republicans’ agenda, saying Obamacare “is not popular" in the country.

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Rep. Chris Collins of New York, the first member of Congress to come out in support of Trump, said that Trump will surprise people.

And Collins insisted that Trump's agenda is the same as Ryan's agenda, including on issues of tax reform, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and "bringing jobs back" to the U.S.

"You drive the legislative agenda, I'll drive the vision and we'll work together and get this done," is what Collins said Trump tells Ryan.

Collins also predicted a deal on immigration that secures the borders, deports "the criminal elements" but does not deport 11 million undocumented people.

"I think we can do fundamental immigration reform," he said.

"Within six months, all of the folks afraid of Trump won't be," said Collins, who represents western New York, an area that heavily backs Trump.