Trump pushes republicans to take swift action on reforms

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – President Donald Trump pushed Republican lawmakers on Thursday for swift action on his agenda including funding a U.S.-Mexican border wall, rewriting the tax code and repealing the Obamacare law, despite tensions over timetables and priorities.

Congressional Republicans were in Philadelphia for a three-day retreat to hammer out a legislative agenda, with the party in control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in a decade.

“This Congress is going to be the busiest Congress we’ve had in decades, maybe ever,” Trump told the lawmakers.

“Enough ‘all talk, no action.’ We have to deliver,” Trump added.

But Republican lawmakers have found themselves answering questions from reporters not just about their legislative agenda but also about Trump statements on matters such as alleged voting irregularities and CIA interrogation tactics.

House of Representatives Speaker Ryan took issue with the notion that congressional Republicans are not in synch with Trump, the New York businessman who was sworn in last Friday having never previously held public office.

“We are on the same page with the White House,” Ryan said during a joint news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, downplaying any differences with Trump.

“This is going to be an unconventional presidency,” Ryan added. “I think you know this by now. … I think we’re going to see unconventional activities like tweets and things like that. I think that’s just something that we’re all going to have to get used to.”

For weeks, Republicans talked about formulating an agenda for the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. In recent days, the talk has turned into a 200-day agenda for passing major legislation before the lawmakers’ August recess.

“It’s going to take more than simply 100 days,” Ryan said.

Ryan said congressional Republicans have been working with the Trump administration on a daily basis “to map out and plan a very bold and aggressive agenda to make good on our campaign promises” including repealing and replacing Democratic former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, as well as tax code and regulatory changes.

In comments suggesting a lack of confidence in finishing the job quickly, Ryan said on Thursday that it is “our goal is to get these laws done in 2017,” without guaranteeing that a replacement for Obamacare and a tax reform bill would be enacted by the end of December.

In his first address to House and Senate Republicans since taking office, Trump is expected to try to rally party lawmakers to take quick action on his priorities.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said the pace of legislative action may frustrate Trump.

“President Trump comes from a different world,” McCarthy told reporters. “Out in the business community, he likes things done fast, and he’s going to continue to push them.”

SPENDING ISSUES

McConnell said lawmakers will take up legislation to provide $12 billion (£9.5 billion) to $15 billion to pay for Trump’s planned wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday for the wall to proceed, part of a package of measures aimed at curbing illegal immigration, although the action has tested already frayed relations with Mexico.

Trump has promised that Mexico eventually will pay for the cost of the wall. Mexico has said it will not.

McConnell and Ryan did not say whether Congress would offset the cost of the wall by cutting other programs or simply add to already huge budget deficits that they have criticized for years.

“We anticipate a supplemental (budget) coming from the administration,” Ryan said at a news conference. “The point is we’re going to finance the Secure Fence Act.”

Asked whether the Republicans could promise not to run up the federal deficit with everything on their agenda this year including the wall, infrastructure spending and tax cuts, Ryan said, “We are fiscal conservatives. What that means is we believe government should not live beyond its means.”

Ryan and McConnell also indicated congressional Republicans do not plan to modify U.S. law banning torture even as Trump considers bringing back a CIA programme for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas “black site” prisons where interrogation techniques often condemned as torture were used.

“I think the director of the CIA (Mike Pompeo) has made it clear he’s going to follow the law. And I believe virtually all of my members are comfortable the state of the law on that issue now,” McConnell said.

“Torture’s not legal,” Ryan said. “And we agree with it not being legal.

Trump and his allies in Congress are certain to face Democratic opposition to many of his legislative priorities, and Senate rules allow the minority party to mount procedural hurdles that could slow or impede passage.

In a highly unusual move for a visiting foreign leader, British Prime Minister Theresa May will hold a private meeting with the Republican lawmakers, without congressional Democrats. May is scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday.

(Additional reporting by David Morgan and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)