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Ryan on Border Wall: ‘You Have to Have Physical Barriers’

Speaker says he and Trump are ‘on the same page’ on border security

Speaker Paul D. Ryan says he and Donald Trump are “on the same page” with regard to securing the border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan says he and Donald Trump are “on the same page” with regard to securing the border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

While they may not agree on all aspects of immigration policy, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday that he and President-elect Donald Trump are “on the same page” on border security. 

“I’m in favor of securing the border. And I do believe that you have to have physical barriers on the border,” the Wisconsin Republican told Fox News’ Bret Baier, when asked if he supports Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border. “I will defer to the experts on the border as to what is the right way to actually secure the border.”

Ryan dodged a question about Trump’s proposal to deport undocumented immigrants, saying that border security was the first priority. He later added that other immigration policy priorities that all Republicans agree on include interior enforcement and a visa tracking system.

The speaker listed securing the border, along with overhauling the tax code and repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law as top agenda items for the GOP under a Trump administration.

Asked if Republicans would use the budget reconciliation process to pursue a health care overhaul, Ryan said, “Those are details that we’ll figure out down the road.”

Trump named two of the same policy areas — securing the border and “health care issues” — among his top priorities when speaking briefly to reporters after separate meetings with Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday.

A third policy area mentioned by Trump — “big league jobs” — is encompassing enough to include a number of economic priorities including a tax overhaul. 

“That’s exactly what we’re going to be working on in the coming weeks and months — about how to sequence the kinds of reforms to make good on the campaign promises that Donald Trump made, that he’s serious about and to pass an agenda to get this country back on track,” Ryan said.

Baier also asked Ryan about the upcoming debt limit deadline in March. Having Republicans in control of the White House and Congress makes dealing with the debt limit “a world of difference better,” the speaker said.  

“It means we can use this as an opportunity to get good things done,” he said.

Regarding national security, Ryan dismissed concerns raised by members of his own party that Trump should not have access to the nuclear codes as “campaign hyperbole” and suggested that Trump has changed. 

“The Donald Trump we saw at, what, 2 or 3 in the morning on Tuesday night was a president,” Ryan said. “We saw a man who was magnanimous, who was gracious, who exhibited at 2 in the morning, after a really tough campaign, a really perfect temperament.”

Ryan, whose meeting Thursday with the president-elect took place before the Fox News interview taping, said he believes Trump is taking his new responsibilities seriously. 

“He’s already talking … in his transition, about getting the kinds of experts and advisers on foreign policy that would make any Republican presidency proud,” the speaker said

Baier played Ryan a video clip of Trump from the campaign trail expressing frustration over the speaker’s lack of support, but Ryan said those sentiments were not expressed during their meeting. “The past is the past,” he said. 

Ryan said he was not worried about a challenge to his speakership from the House Freedom Caucus or anyone else.

“We’re excited about going forward and about working on executing an agenda. So the Democrats are the ones in turmoil. The Republicans are the ones who are unified,” he said.