Story highlights

Paul Ryan laid out an upbeat, forward looking agenda for a "confident America" in his first major address since becoming speaker

"Our No. 1 goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left's agenda," Ryan said

Washington CNN  — 

In the middle of a nasty and divisive 2016 Republican presidential contest, House Speaker Paul Ryan lays out an upbeat, forward-looking agenda for his vision for a “confident America.”

Ryan, just a month into his speakership, rose to prominence as one of his party’s promising and biggest thinkers. His first major address at the Library of Congress, with top House and Senate GOP members in the audience, signaled he wants to drive the GOP agenda as the standard bearer until the national races sort out who will be the presidential nominee.

“Our No. 1 goal for the next year is to put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda,” Ryan said.

Even though President Barack Obama still has another year in office and won’t agree with the GOP’s ideas, Ryan said it was their duty to show a contrast.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (accidental) mic drop

“Even if he won’t sign them into law, we will put out specific proposals and give the people a real choice,” the Wisconsin Republican pledged.

Ryan made it clear he didn’t want to just focus on the same GOP playbook on the Hill that featured repeated votes on rolling back Obama administration initiatives. He said House Republicans would “show what we would do, what our ideal policy would be-looking forward to 2017 and beyond. We owe it to the country to offer a bold, pro-growth agenda.”

Although he was his party’s nominee for vice president in 2012, Ryan has deliberately steered clear of the current presidential race that has been dominated by the rise of outspoken businessman Donald Trump.

But he appeared to issue a warning to those vying for the nomination.

“Maybe the way to win the debate is to play identity politics, never mind ideas. Maybe what you do is slice and dice the electorate: Demonize. Polarize. Turn out your voters. Hope the rest stay home,” Ryan said. “And I would just say, ‘yes, it’s possible we could win that way – but to what end?’ ”

House GOP unveils new bill to up scrutiny of those traveling to U.S.

The address included criticism that the President has made Americans feel “anxious” and that under his leadership the “federal government has grown arrogant, condescending and outright paternalistic.”

Ryan also had a tough words for the Obama administration’s national security agenda.

“Too many people think a warning from the United States is the hollow protest of a has-been,” he said.

The speech wasn’t an exhaustive list of specific bills, but gave broad strokes on what to expect from the GOP Congress in 2016 – simplifying the tax code, introducing greater competition into the health insurance market, promoting trade and generating jobs that propel people out of poverty.

Ryan also promised to do something in 2016 that the GOP has pledged to do since Obamacare was enacted – introduce a bill to replace “every word of it.”