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House Speaker Paul Ryan Rules Himself Out As A Possible Republican Nominee

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said what he is not going to do. Let's ask what he is up to.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Ryan told reporters yesterday the Republican Party should not draft him as a presidential candidate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL RYAN: Let me be clear. I do not want nor will I accept the nomination for our party.

MONTAGNE: It's a nomination he decided not to seek some time ago. Though many Republicans are dismayed by their options now, Ryan says this summer's Republican convention should not turn to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN: Let me speak directly to the delegates on this. If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe that you should only choose from a person who has actually participated in the primary. Count me out.

MONTAGNE: The remaining contenders - Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

INSKEEP: Speaker Ryan's House colleagues include Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas. Congressman, welcome back to the program.

MIKE POMPEO: Steve, it's great to be with you this morning. Thanks for having me on the show.

INSKEEP: Didn't Ryan also refuse to be house speaker?

POMPEO: He did. But he was pretty unequivocal yesterday. And I think Speaker Ryan presented a very clear set of priorities - things he wants to get done that the Republican Party can return to being a party of ideas. I think he was pretty unequivocal, yes.

INSKEEP: Well, when you say return to a party of ideas, there are lots of Republicans who are dismayed by their remaining choices. Setting Ryan aside, keeping him out of it, I wonder if you agree with his assertion that Republicans should go ahead and choose from the candidates that remain if they have that option at the convention.

POMPEO: So I'm fairly new to politics. I've only been doing this for a handful of years. I have been to one convention now - I have great confidence. I watched the delegate selection process in Kansas. We chose Senator Cruz to get the majority of our delegates. I'm confident that those delegates - when they arrive in Cleveland - that we'll form good judgments about who to select. And we have a set of rules that says you have to get to one - 50 percent plus one.

And I look forward to being there and watching the process go forward. I am confident we will select a conservative candidate that will go on in November to defeat Secretary Clinton.

INSKEEP: That's a very gracious answer. But are you saying, as Ryan did, that they should choose from among Trump, Cruz and Kasich?

POMPEO: You know, I think they'll make a good choice. I think they'll sort through it. We have a set of rules for a reason and they'll make - they'll have a good outcome. It may turn out that, for some reason, those three aren't the ones that can garner 50 percent plus one. I think that's important.

We have to win in November. The American people are demanding a return to a government that is limited and supports liberty. We haven't had that for eight years.

INSKEEP: And, as you allude to, the rules may allow choice of someone else if nobody gets a majority on the first ballot. Let me ask here about substance because what Speaker Ryan says he's really trying to focus on is an agenda, putting forward an ideas-based agenda. What is one vital, positive idea that you think will unite Republicans?

POMPEO: Well, I think there are a number. I mean, our history back to Lincoln is pretty clear. We stand for getting government out of the way, letting people make good decisions for themselves, in education, returning power to school boards and to teachers and to parents so they can educate the children. There's a good example of a core principle.

And while at the edges we might not agree exactly on the right actions in every case, that fundamental idea, that principle that we ought to return government to the lowest level we could achieve the objective of liberty, and in that case, it makes our kids get a good education, is a perfect example of a stark difference between our party and the Democrat Party.

INSKEEP: Although, the differences become more plain when you begin talking about more specific things that Republicans would like to do. I'm thinking, for example, of Obamacare. Republicans are united against Obamacare. But Speaker Ryan has promised that this year he will come up with a replacement for Obamacare. Of course, his predecessor as speaker never did come up with one. It was hard for Republicans ever to agree on anything. Has Ryan come up with a replacement, as far as you know?

POMPEO: He's getting close. There is an enormous consensus about the disaster that Obamacare has been. You know, one of the things that Speaker Ryan said was that he thinks that distrust in government is a result of distrust in politics. I actually think it's distrust in government that has led to the politics of today, that as we had a president who said, if like your health care plan, you can keep it, and no American believes that anymore.

I think, at it's core, if we can can return - and health care is a perfect example - if we can return trust in government, government to actually create opportunity for folks to make good decisions about their own health care, I think we'll see less of the politics of today, which I know so many are rejecting.

INSKEEP: OK, so you said you think that Ryan is close to coming up with an alternative to Obamacare. Let me ask quickly - I've got about a minute here - about one other issue. Speaker Ryan, if I'm not mistaken, wants - on illegal immigration - wants a pathway to legal status, not necessarily citizenship, for people who are in this country illegally. That is a position very controversial in your party. Presidential candidates who wanted anything like that were mostly destroyed. Do you think your party is anywhere close to unity on that issue?

POMPEO: I think we're much closer than the public discourse would lead you to believe. I think this idea that the rule of law ought to prevail, that we have an immigration system that is backwards today. It's much too easy to come here illegally and very, very difficult to become an immigrant through lawful process. I think we need to reverse those.

I think our party has an enormous consensus around that. It is true that on the details, exactly how to do that, and how to handle the issue of the folks who are here today unlawfully, remains a challenge for all of us.

INSKEEP: Congressman Pompeo, thanks very much.

POMPEO: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican of Kansas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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