New House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday called for tough work requirements for welfare recipients and cuts to safety net programs as he sketched a vision for congressional Republicans for 2017 and beyond.
In a speech his staff billed as his first major address, the Wisconsin Republican who took over the House gavel just over a month ago said Republicans must go beyond trying to undo President Barack Obama's agenda "as if we could time-travel back to 2009."
Speaking as the Senate debated the latest attempt to repeal Obama's health law, Ryan said, "We owe it to the country to offer a bold, pro-growth agenda. And that is what we are going to do."
Ryan vowed that House Republicans would soon "unveil a plan to replace every single word of Obamacare."
The speech was short on specifics, but Ryan made clear that he has no desire to hang back and play a supporting role to the GOP's presidential nominee next year. And the former House Budget Committee chairman — who has proposed slashing Medicaid and converting Medicare into a voucher-like program — hinted at fresh assaults on federal safety net programs.
"In 1996, we created a work requirement for welfare. But that was just one program. We have to fix all the others now," Ryan said. "I'd combine a lot of them and send that money back to the states for better poverty-fighting solutions. Require everyone who can, to work."
Ryan also made clear he is more interested in promulgating a GOP vision than in finding common ground with Obama.
"Even if he won't sign them into law, we will put out specific proposals and give the people a real choice," Ryan said.
Offering "a complete alternative to the left's agenda" will bolster the Republican Party and increase the likelihood that Obama's successor will enact their proposals, he said.
The Wisconsin Republican replaced former House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio after Boehner resigned under pressure from conservatives in the House. Thus far Ryan still seems to be enjoying a honeymoon, but that will be tested by a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a package of spending bills or face a partial government shutdown.
Al Jazeera and Reuters