WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans seem ready to keep Speaker Paul Ryan and other leaders in their posts as a GOP exultant over Donald Trump’s White House triumph prepares to push year-end bills through the lame-duck Congress and focus on a bolder agenda next year.
As lawmakers returned for a post-election session, House Republicans were meeting privately Tuesday to pick their leadership team for the next two years, when the GOP will have unfettered White House and congressional control for the first time since 2006. Ryan, R-Wis., seemed on track to being nominated to keep his job, with the full GOP-led House formally electing the speaker when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.
Ryan faced dissension from hard-right conservatives wondering if he’ll be aggressive enough and Trump backers irked by his refusal to campaign for the GOP presidential nominee. But lawmakers from across the party’s spectrum predicted Ryan would prevail, aided by Trump’s victory and the president-elect’s selection of Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, a Ryan friend from Wisconsin, as White House chief of staff.
Priebus’ selection is “a perfect indication of our new president’s desire to get things done,” Ryan said Monday on WBEL radio’s “The Stan Milan Show.” Asked about people nervous about the election results, Ryan said, “I’d tell people just to relax. Things are going to be fine.”
But some Republicans weren’t.
“I’m not going to support anybody in leadership until they tell me how things are going to change the next two years,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of the tea party-oriented House Freedom Caucus that helped push Speaker John Boehner into early retirement last year.
Labrador said he expected Ryan to win the majority of Republicans needed Tuesday to be nominated. He said “the rub comes” Jan. 3, when Ryan will need 218 votes — a majority of the full House — to be speaker and avoid a damaging setback to a career path that many think includes a presidential run.
With four races undecided, Republicans will likely have 241 seats next year. Democrats are certain to back their own leader, meaning no more than 23 Republicans could desert him.
Another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Trump’s victory helped Ryan “more out of the necessity of having to hit the ground running on issues that are important, that were campaigned on, than anything else.”
Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., an early Trump supporter not in the Freedom Caucus, said he’d not decided whether to back Ryan. He said he preferred delaying the leadership vote because Republicans needed time to discuss campaign “divisions,” a seeming reference to their differences over Trump.
Before adjourning for the year, lawmakers who have failed to make a dent in the year’s spending legislation will have to find a way to approve something so federal agencies won’t shut down on Dec. 9. Leaders also want bills approved speeding government drug approval and financing water projects, including money to help Flint, Michigan, clean up its lead-poisoned water supply.
The House voted on minor bills Monday and the Senate was returning Tuesday. Lawmakers leave at week’s end for Thanksgiving break.
Republicans plan a 2017 agenda headlined by repealing and rewriting Obama’s health care law, cutting taxes and curbing federal regulations.
Senate Republicans and Democrats were meeting separately Wednesday to pick their leadership teams.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is keeping his job in a chamber that Republicans will control by 52-48. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is retiring after a 30-year Senate career and seems certain to be replaced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
House Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., plan leadership decisions Thursday. More than two dozen junior Democrats wanted a delay, saying the party needs time to digest last week’s election flop, losing the White House and gaining a disappointing handful of congressional seats.
On Tuesday the House is expected to approve a bill renewing a decades-old Iran sanctions law, which supporters say would let the U.S. punish Tehran should the country fail to live up to the terms of the landmark nuclear deal.
AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner and AP writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.