Ryan Lays Out Ambitious 200-Day Congressional Agenda

Health care and tax overhauls slated to be done by August per GOP plan

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., does a television interview at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. House and Senate Republicans are holding their retreat through Friday in Philadelphia, with a visit from President Donald Trump expected Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

PHILADELPHIA — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is laying out an aggressive 200-day agenda that will have Congress rolling back regulations, repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law, funding a border wall, rewriting the tax code, expanding the veterans’ choice program, advancing an infrastructure package and avoiding a debt default — all before the August recess. 

“It’s the president and his administration working hand and glove with the speaker and the majority leader,” New York Rep. Chris Collins told reporters after Ryan’s presentation at the start of the GOP retreat here on Wednesday. “It’s going to be hard. We’re going to be doing controversial things. The speaker’s message was, ‘None of this is going to be easy, and we’re going to be attacked by somebody regardless of what we do, so let’s buckle our seat belts and understand we have an obligation here.’”

Congress’ first move will be to start rolling back regulations from President Obama’s final months in office using the Congressional Review Act.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday that the House will begin that process next week. The first three regulations the GOP plans to repeal are the Interior Department’s stream protection rule, the EPA’s methane gas emissions standards and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, the California Republican said.

The next few months will include a continued focus on the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace the health care law. Ryan said Wednesday the goal was to complete that effort this spring, members and aides said.

“It’s got two or three pieces,” Collins said. “Repeal and some part of replace can be in reconciliation. There’s 1,400 different items within Obamacare that can be done by [Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Tom Price] once he’s in, in that group, and then there will be other potential replacement pieces that aren’t appropriate in the reconciliation that can roll out one by each.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent said the timeline called for an initial reconciliation measure to President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of March.

After completing the fiscal 2017 reconciliation process for health care, Republicans will plan to use the fiscal 2018 budget reconciliation process to overhaul the tax code by the end of July, members and aides said.

Collins said the goal was to get the tax code rewrite to the president’s desk before the August recess, but other members and aides were unclear whether the Senate would be able to adhere to that timeline.

In addition to the health care and tax overhauls, which Republicans said are the top two priorities, other agenda items Ryan mentioned included expanding the veterans’ choice program and avoiding default on the nation’s borrowing obligations after a suspension of the debt ceiling lifts in March.

The speaker also said he expects the administration in the coming months to submit a supplemental appropriations request to obtain funding for a border wall, according to members and aides. 

Collins and Dent said an infrastructure package was also added to the 200-day agenda at Trump’s request. “No price tag came out,” Collins said, but he noted the infrastructure package would “be moving along” by August.

The agenda Ryan laid out for the next six months is quite ambitious for a Congress that, in recent years, has moved only a handful of what could be considered major pieces of legislation. Last year, Republicans didn’t even adopt a budget blueprint and fell way short of the goal they laid out during their 2016 retreat to pass all 12 appropriations bills.

It was not clear if the timeline Ryan laid out would apply to the Senate, which has a more cumbersome process for moving legislation on the floor. The Senate also has to use much of its floor time in the coming months to confirm Trump’s Cabinet and administrative appointments.

While the GOP agenda this year is supported by Trump and his administration, it’s an ambitious haul for a short time period. Leaders have said the House and Senate will work longer hours this year to accommodate their lengthy to-do list.  

A Ryan spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

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