House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday the Republican base is “definitely animated” ahead of this fall’s midterms, after the recent and incendiary battle to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Taking questions following a speech at the National Press Club, Ryan said he agreed with analysis that the handling of the nomination was a motivating factor that could ultimately help Republicans.
“I think the Democratic base was already there,” he said. “This definitely – I could just see it from traveling around the country in the last few days, traveling around Wisconsin – the Republican base is definitely animated after this.”
Ryan said he wasn’t engaged much with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since Christine Blasey Ford testified publicly that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers – allegations that Kavanaugh forcefully denied.
The speaker, though, praised Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ speech on Friday, when she laid out her reasoning for supporting Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Look I thought Susan Collins, I thought her speech was tremendous,” he said. “I think she showed the right analysis, right tone.”
Ryan said he spoke to Trump after the confirmation “about that and a number of other issues,” though he didn’t go into detail.
His comments came during a question-and-answer session after he spoke about GOP accomplishments during the past two years, which included passing tax cuts, funding the military on time this year, effectively shutting down websites that enable human trafficking, making changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs and passing a massive bipartisan opioids package.
Ryan also spent considerable time railing against the Medicare-for-all idea that Democrats are embracing in the ramp-up to the next Congress and the 2020 presidential election. “Obamacare meant fewer choices. ‘Medicare for All’ means no choices, no competition,” he said.
While Congress avoided a partial government shutdown at the end of September, it’s widely expected there will be another spending showdown in December when the current continuing resolution expires.
Asked to confirm Trump’s comments last month that he secured a commitment from GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to wage a war over funding for the border wall, Ryan said they intend to fight but made no prediction over how it turns out.
“Yes, we intend on having a full fledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border, and we will have a big fight about that,” he said. “What that fight looks like … we have a commitment to go fight for securing the border and getting these policy objectives achieved. And we’re going to be looking at doing it, we’ll figure out how to do it in December.”
He also weighed in on the alarming disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying both Turkey and Saudi Arabia need to provide more facts.
“I’ve read his column in The (Washington) Post for some time now,” Ryan said. “I think it’s very distributing. It’s very unnerving. We just need to get the clear facts from both governments – the Turks, it’s an interesting question – but from the Turks and the Saudis. … As an elected leader, we stand with you in the media in solidarity to making sure that this does not go unnoticed and that we stand and fight for answers to we can bring transparency and accountability to this kind of thing.”