By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan promised on Monday there would be a “big fight” after the midterm elections over Republican’s promise to find a way to pay for a border wall — a commitment he and other GOP lawmakers made to President Donald Trump.
Ryan said he and likeminded lawmakers in Congress did not think it would be wise to wage such a fight before the midterms. Trump wants three times the $1.6 billion Congress has tentatively agreed to provide this year for the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The president threatened to force a shutdown over the issue, but instead signed legislation paying for some parts of the government through Dec. 7.
“What the president wants to do is get a bigger down payment so it can be built faster,” Ryan said in a speech at the National Press Club.
“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 it,” Ryan said.
A bill being considered in the Senate allocates $1.6 billion for Trump’s wall, far short of the $5 billion Trump is seeking. A bill approved by a House committee includes $5 billion for physical barriers and associated technology along the U.S. southern border.
Asked if he made a commitment to Trump for a government shutdown over wall money, Ryan said the blame would fall on Democrats, who are in the minority in Congress and largely oppose spending more on the wall.
“We have a commitment to go fight for securing the border and getting these policy objectives achieved,” Ryan said.
Legislation that Trump signed in September is funding more than 70 percent of the government through the fall of 2019. But money for some agencies was only extended to Dec. 7, including for the Department of Homeland Security, which would be in charge of building the wall.
Talk of a partial government shutdown over the divisive issue of immigration punctuated an otherwise upbeat talk from Ryan about the GOP’s accomplishments as he made the case for his party in the general election this November.
The speaker pointed to tax cuts, bolstered defense spending and attempts to curtail opioid addiction and human trafficking as top achievements in the Republican-led House. He called them “big things we have delivered, big promises we have kept.”
During a questions-and-answers session, Ryan was asked about the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared last week after visiting his country’s consulate in Turkey.
“It’s very disturbing,” Ryan said. “We need to get clear facts from both countries.”
Ryan, once a potential presidential contender — and the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012 — said he’s “done with elected politics” for now, at least.
Ryan is retiring rather than seeking re-election in his home state of Wisconsin. Republicans face a difficult election as they try to keep their House majority in Congress.
Ryan warned against electing Democrats, saying the party has gone “further left to the fringes” and only promises “more disorder, more chaos.”
Since Supreme Court nominees need approval only in the Senate, speaker was on the sidelines in the fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to a spot on the high-court bench. But Ryan said he’s seen evidence while traveling the country that the fight over Kavanaugh is motivating Republican voters.
“The Republican base is definitely animated after this,” he said.
But he cautioned there’s still 29 days to go before the election, a nod to the fast-changing political situation.