Trump, McCon­nell and Ryan are un­likely new power trio

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Erica Werner AP Con­gres­sional Cor­re­spon­dent

Wash­ing­ton’s new power trio con­sists of a bom­bas­tic bil­lion­aire, a tele­genic pol­icy wonk, and a tac­i­turn po­lit­i­cal tac­ti­cian. How well they can get along will help de­ter­mine what gets done over the next four years, and whether the new pres­i­dent’s agenda floun­ders or suc­ceeds.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell make up an un­likely al­liance, one de­fined in ad­vance mostly by Trump’s op­po­si­tion to the Wash­ing­ton es­tab­lish­ment that Ryan and McCon­nell ex­em­plify.

Trump and Ryan clashed through­out the cam­paign, with Trump tak­ing of­fense when Ryan ini­tially re­fused to en­dorse him and later dis­tanced him­self over the au­dio of Trump talk­ing about grop­ing women.

“Paul Ryan, a man who doesn’t know how to win (in­clud­ing failed run four years ago), must start fo­cus­ing on the bud­get, mil­i­tary, vets etc.,” Trump groused over Twitter last month.

But that was then, this is now, as Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, said Thurs­day af­ter meet­ing with Trump at the Capi­tol.

“The past is in the past,” Ryan said in an in­ter­view on Fox News Chan­nel. “This was an un­con­ven­tional year, he was an un­con­ven­tional can­di­date, but the point is we uni­fied, es­pe­cially at the right point, at the end. And it worked.”

In­deed, thanks partly to Trump’s coat­tails, Ryan and McCon­nell lim­ited ex­pected losses to their ma­jori­ties and will en­ter the new ad­min­is­tra­tion with con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress and the White House. For now the glow of vic­tory ap­pears to be sooth­ing past ten­sions. And Repub­li­cans aligned with all three note they have some­thing very im­por­tant in com­mon: They need each other.

“Ryan needs Trump to ac­com­plish his pol­icy agenda,” said GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Ok­la­homa, in com­ments that ap­ply to McCon­nell as well. “Trump needs Ryan to get things to his desk.”

There are well-known pol­icy dis­agree­ments to nav­i­gate on is­sues like trade, im­mi­gra­tion, Medi­care and So­cial Se­cu­rity, where Trump’s pro­pos­als and cam­paign rhetoric of­ten flew in the face of Ryan and McCon­nell’s stan­dard busi­ness-friendly Repub­li­can ap­proach. But Trump’s own un­fa­mil­iar­ity with the te­dious busi­ness of leg­is­lat­ing, and un­formed pol­icy po­si­tions in some cases, may give Ryan and McCon­nell a unique op­por­tu­nity to fill in the de­tails. That would be a wel­come role for both - McCon­nell as a deeply ex­pe­ri­enced leg­is­la­tor and deal­maker, and Ryan as an ea­ger wonk who chaired the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee be­fore be­com­ing House speaker. Ryan is steeped in de­tails on re­form­ing taxes and re­shap­ing en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing — al­though Trump has been crit­i­cal of Ryan’s past bud­get pro­pos­als. “I don’t think there’s any ques­tion that a Pres­i­dent Trump will be look­ing for leg­isla­tive ex­per­tise,” said Josh Holmes, McCon­nell’s former chief of staff. “Some of that comes from the staff that he hires, and some of that will come from al­lies on Capi­tol Hill.”

More­over, Ryan’s per­sonal po­lit­i­cal fu­ture, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions of his own, may de­pend in part on how ef­fec­tively he man­ages the re­la­tion­ship with Trump.

The speaker’s tepid em­brace of Trump dur­ing the cam­paign an­gered some con­ser­va­tives in his con­fer­ence, stir­ring talk that he could face a chal­lenge to his speak­er­ship.

But Ryan’s en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse to Trump’s vic­tory ap­pears to have di­min­ished any ap­petite for a lead­er­ship coup. The wide ma­jor­ity he will con­tinue to en­joy next year — with at least 240 Repub­li­cans in the 435-mem­ber House, com­pared to 247 now — also re­duces the po­ten­tial for mis­chief by a small band of dis­grun­tled con­ser­va­tives.

“Vic­tory soothes lots of dif­fer­ences,” said GOP Rep. Chris Collins of New York, a top Trump backer. “The mood of us right now is we can’t waste any time with re­crim­i­na­tions and fin­ger­point­ing. My God, we won!”

Un­like Ryan, McCon­nell was quick to en­dorse Trump as soon as he clinched the GOP nom­i­na­tion. McCon­nell never wa­vered on that, nor pro­voked Trump’s ire over Twitter. At 74, McCon­nell has reached the long-sought pin­na­cle of his ca­reer as Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader, and un­like Ryan, 46, has no po­ten­tial higher am­bi­tions to man­age.

Just as im­por­tant, McCon­nell is known for pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships that are all busi­ness and have noth­ing to do with per­son­al­ity. So even though the closed­mouth Ken­tuck­ian would seem to have noth­ing in com­mon with a free­wheel­ing, thrice-mar­ried Man­hat­tan­ite like Trump, al­lies say that doesn’t mat­ter to McCon­nell.

That said, both men could face op­po­si­tion from members of Trump’s in­ner cir­cle, par­tic­u­larly Stephen Ban­non. Ban­non was chief ex­ec­u­tive of the con­ser­va­tive news site Bre­it­bart be­fore as­sum­ing a role in Trump’s cam­paign and is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for a se­nior spot in Trump’s White House.

Just be­fore Ryan’s pri­mary race in July, with Ban­non still at the helm of Bre­it­bart, the site called the speaker a hyp­ocrite for build­ing a “bor­der wall” around his Janesville, Wis­con­sin, man­sion when he re­fused to sup­port Trump’s south­ern bor­der wall pro­posal. Bre­it­bart con­tin­ued at­tack­ing Ryan this fall, pub­lish­ing a lengthy post ti­tled, “He’s with her: In­side Paul Ryan’s months-long cam­paign to elect Hil­lary Clin­ton pres­i­dent.”

Bre­it­bart has also slammed McCon­nell, crit­i­ciz­ing him over oc­ca­sions where he be­stowed luke­warm praise on Clin­ton and crit­i­cized Trump’s undis­ci­plined cam­paign­ing.

What po­si­tion Trump gives Ban­non ver­sus Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus, a Trump con­fi­dante and close Ryan ally, may be a sig­nal as to how the in­com­ing pres­i­dent plans to col­lab­o­rate, or not, with the con­gres­sional lead­er­ship. As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers Julie Bykow­icz and Alan Fram con­trib­uted to this re­port.

ALEX BRANDON — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pose for pho­tog­ra­phers af­ter a meet­ing in the Speaker’s of­fice on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Thurs­day.

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