House Speaker Paul Ryan said during his farewell address on Wednesday that over the last three years, with his time as speaker, “we have kept our promises.”
“Three years ago, when we last gathered in this hall, we began a great journey. To set our nation on a better path. To move our economy from stagnation to growth. To restore our military might,” Ryan said.
“And we have kept our promises,” Ryan added.
The Wisconsin Republican said that they have taken on some of the “biggest challenges of our time” and they made a “lasting difference” that changed the trajectory of America.
Ryan charged that America could solve any problem “by putting pen to paper on sound policy.”
The Wisconsin Republican then pivoted towards entitlement reform, which he long promised to reform, and yet, has remained unable to pass any substantial entitlement reform during his time in Congress, or as speaker.
Ryan admitted that he faced immense political tailwinds with his plan to reform America’s entitlement programs, saying, “I acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reform have outpaced the political reality and I consider this our greatest unfinished business.”
“We all know what needs to be done,” Ryan continued. “Strong economic growth, which we have now, and entitlement reform, to address the long-term drivers of our debt.”
Ryan also stumbled on passing an Obamacare repeal package, which initially failed after conservatives chided the legislation, contending the bill did too little to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An Obamacare repeal package only passed through the House after Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) teamed up with then-Tuesday Group co-chairman Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) to negotiate a revised Obamacare repeal package.
Speaker Ryan then spoke of immigration and said that despite Ryan’s inability to pass substantial immigration reform, “we came closer in this Congress than people realize.”
Rep. Ryan received considerable criticism from House conservatives and other grassroots activists for pushing his a weaker immigration and border security bill compared to the Trump-endorsed legislation sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
The Goodlatte bill received far more votes than the Ryan bill in a series of votes in June.
Ryan said that America’s immigration system “will still be in need of serious reform” and that “our full potential as a nation is at stake.”
The outgoing speaker then said that the Supreme Court’s potential ruling on Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) illegal alien amnesty program will likely bring both parties “back to the table.”
“Getting this right is an economic and moral imperative. And it would go a long way toward taking some of the venom out of our discourse,” Ryan said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who will become the House Minority Leader next January, released a statement on Wednesday, cheering Ryan’s tenure in Congress.
Paul’s service to our country is a story of integrity and results. He has fought for his constituents for over two decades, inspired our party to embrace an ambitious conservative policy agenda, and led Congress in passing reforms that have charted a stronger path forward for our country.
The lame-duck speaker then said that through fixing our immigration system, reforming entitlement programs, and confronting the country’s debt crisis, we can continue to make America great.
The Washington Post wrote a scathing piece on Tuesday, slamming Ryan for claiming to be a fiscal conservative; however, deficits have skyrocketed under Ryan’s speakership. The Post wrote:
Ryan often spoke of the imperative of fiscal discipline, especially during the eight years of the Obama administration. But the nation’s red ink has grown since Ryan became speaker, soaring from $438 billion in 2015 to $779 billion this year. And many economists blame the tax cut as a culprit as next year’s deficit is projected to hit nearly $1 trillion.
“If we do these three things—make progress on poverty, fix our immigration system, confront this debt crisis—we can make this another great century for our country,” Ryan said.
Watch Ryan’s speech here.