CNN’s Bash to Paul Ryan: How Can You ‘Control’ the Freedom Caucus?

On Sunday’s State of the Union, fill-in host Dana Bash sat down with newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about his goals for the new job but did her best to play up the supposed dysfunction among House GOPers. 

The CNN host played up the liberal line that members of the House Freedom Caucus are a major problem for Republican leadership and asked Ryan “How are you going to control the 40 or so members of that so-called Freedom Caucus in a way that John Boehner couldn't?” 

For his part, Ryan pushed back against Bash’s loaded question and chose to focus on how the House Freedom Caucus merely wants to have a voice in the legislative process: 

I think members were frustrated that they didn't really have the opportunity to express their own views on the floor. I think the legislative process has been too tightly controlled and has to be reopened up. I want members of Congress representing their constituents, having the ability in the process to actually advance ideas. 

Later in the segment, Bash continued to press Ryan from the left, this time on the issue of mandated paid family leave as it relates to his speakership:

You sparked a national debate when you said one of the reasons you didn't want to take this job is because of your work/family balance. I have to say that when I was reporting on that, I got more response on Twitter, on Facebook from friends and family all over the country saying, you know, wow, this is interesting that he's talking about this. But what's he going to do about it?

Rather than simply accept Bash’s call for a federal mandate, Ryan stressed that “sticking up for being a person with balance in your life, for wanting to spend your weekends in your home, with your family -- which I work with constituents and my family throughout the weekends. I don't think that means, therefore, you should sign up for some unfunded mandate.”

The CNN host continued to push Ryan from the left over the issue of paid family leave and how “[i]t's more of the fact that women, in particular, heard you talking like this and said, wow, he gets it. Maybe he can do something about it. And I hear you're saying unfunded mandate but there are proposals out there to make it work in a way that it's not unfunded.”

Once again, Ryan explained that he sympathized with the issues raised by the CNN host but pointed out that legislation focused on flex time rather than mandated paid leave would be a better approach: 

Flex time. We have had pretty good legislation on flex times and that's a bill that I think is a great idea. So, Marco Martha Roby has legislation. The flex time legislation that Martha Roby has proposed is to give families more flexibility in their hours... That's why I would recommend taking a look at the Roby flex time bill.

See relevant transcript below. 

CNN’s State of the Union 

November 1, 2015

DANA BASH: I want to start with talking about big ideas. You speak about the fact that that's what you want to achieve, big ideas, which you're kind of known for, trying to reform Medicare and Medicaid. The tax code. Immigration reform you talked about in the past. But this is not a place where you can get big ideas done. How do you change that?

PAUL RYAN: I completely disagree with that.

BASH: When was the last big idea? 

RYAN: This is the people's house. 

BASH: Right. 

RYAN: This is where people come to serve their country and if you don't like the direction the country is headed then you have an obligation to the people of this country who sent you here to change it.

BASH: That's true historically but in recent years it hasn’t happened. 

RYAN: Exactly right. That’s why I said this speakership has to be differently. I cannot pick up where John left off. That is why, in discussing this with my House Republican colleagues, we all concluded jointly that this has to be done differently. So that's why we're wiping the slate clean. It's a new day. And we're going to go offense on ideas.

We have to be a proposition party, an alternative party. That's where big ideas come from. We've been too timid for too long around here. And that is because we have not given people a sense of what we can do differently, how we can fix these problems, where we would go if we give them the chance. And that is what we have to do.

BASH: How are you going to control the 40 or so members of that so-called Freedom Caucus in a way that John Boehner couldn't?

RYAN: Well, I think members were frustrated that they didn't really have the opportunity to express their own views on the floor. I think the legislative process has been too tightly controlled and has to be reopened up. I want members of Congress representing their constituents, having the ability in the process to actually advance ideas. So, I think that frustration is frustration that I shared actually as a House Republican before becoming speaker. And I think that's what our members want to see us do more of. And that's why I think I'm in this position.

--

BASH: You sparked a national debate when you said one of the reasons you didn't want to take this job is because of your work/family balance. I have to say that when I was reporting on that, I got more response on Twitter, on Facebook from friends and family all over the country saying, you know, wow, this is interesting that he's talking about this. But what's he going to do about it?

RYAN: I don't think that sticking up for being a person with balance in your life, for wanting to spend your weekends in your home, with your family -- which I work with constituents and my family throughout the weekends. I don't think that means, therefore, you should sign up for some unfunded mandate. 

BASH: No, no and I completely get that. But I think it's more of the fact that women, in particular, heard you talking like this and said, wow, he gets it. Maybe he can do something about it. And I hear you're saying unfunded mandate but there are proposals out there to make it work in a way that it's not unfunded.

RYAN: Flex time. We have had pretty good legislation on flex times and that's a bill that I think is a great idea. So, Marco Martha Roby has legislation. The flex time legislation that Martha Roby has proposed is to give families more flexibility in their hours. 

BASH: It’s more a question of since you’re a next generation, you understand how hard it is because most families, many families have two parents working to bring the government policies and laws up-to-date with modern America.

RYAN: That's why I would recommend taking a look at the Roby flex time bill.

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