WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan voiced his disagreement with President Trump’s decision to cut a debt limit deal with Democrats and cast doubt on his call to cut the corporate tax rate by more than half in an interview on Thursday with The New York Times.
The comments underscore the rift between the White House and the top House Republican at a time when they are pressing to reach several major legislative goals before the end of the year. However, Mr. Ryan said that he understood the president’s motivations.
“What the president didn’t want to do is have some partisan fight in the middle of the response to this,” Mr. Ryan said, referring to Hurricane Harvey. “He wanted to make sure we had a bipartisan moment.”
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The remarks were Mr. Ryan’s first public comments on the matter since Mr. Trump blindsided Republican leaders on Wednesday. Before Mr. Trump made the deal, Mr. Ryan called such a strategy “ridiculous.”
On Thursday, he said that he continued to believe that short-term debt limit extensions were not a good idea.
“I personally believe, for the credit markets’ sake, we should have longer extensions of these,” Mr. Ryan said.
Democrats have celebrated the agreement because they think it will give them leverage in other negotiations when the extensions expire in December. Many conservatives assailed Mr. Trump for aligning himself with his political opponents.
But that was not the only difference of opinion that emerged between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump on Thursday.
Mr. Ryan also said Mr. Trump’s call for a 15 percent corporate tax rate was unrealistic and suggested that the president’s math did not add up. He said that getting the corporate tax rate to the mid to low 20 percent range was more likely and would make American businesses more competitive.
“He obviously wants to push that as low as possible,” Mr. Ryan said. “At the end of the day we have to make these numbers work.”
Mr. Ryan has spent the last month traveling the country making the case for a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code and a plan is expected to begin working its way through congressional committees later this month.
Despite months of meetings between Trump administration officials and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, fundamental differences remain. Lawmakers continue to debate whether the eventual legislation will be “deficit neutral” and whether they would support temporary tax cuts that add to the deficit as a last resort.
Mr. Ryan argued on Thursday that an outdated tax code was a drag on the economy and that the changes that Republicans are proposing would raise wages and accelerate economic growth.
After their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act without the help of Democrats, Republicans in the House and Senate have been quietly reaching out to see if bipartisanship is possible. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump traveled to North Dakota with Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, to make the case that she should support the efforts underway to rewrite the tax code.
The effect of Mr. Trump’s deal with Democrats to tie Hurricane Harvey aid to three month extensions to the debt limit and government funding remain unclear.
Many of Mr. Trump’s top economic and legislative advisers disagreed with his decision to cut a deal with the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. Some who opposed the deal tried to put a positive spin on it on Thursday by arguing that it gave a clear opening to work on the tax legislation.
“We’re very happy that we have a deal,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on the Fox Business Network. “I would say the best part about this is this clears out the next 90 days for us to focus on important things.”
Mr. Ryan said in June that his personal goal was to get tax reform done before deer hunting season, which begins before Thanksgiving, and he said he was still confident that it could be completed by the end of 2017.
“We want America to wake up on New Year’s Day 2018 with a new tax system,” Mr. Ryan said.
But more storms are coming and other legislative priorities are piling up. Mr. Trump’s decision earlier this week to end former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gives Congress just six months to come up with a solution.
Mr. Ryan, who had urged Mr. Trump to maintain the program, said that he planned to introduce a “consensus plan” to the floor of the House in the coming months. That plan, he said, would deal with both border security and how to handle the children of undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally.
“I think you can find a compromise,” Mr. Ryan said. “I think six months is enough time for us to figure it out.”
In a Twitter post on Thursday, Mr. Trump urged people who were concerned about their legal status not to worry.
Despite the recent signs of tension between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Trump, Mr. Ryan defended Mr. Trump against accusations that he has been fomenting racism in the country.
“I really think he’s disgusted by these people,” Mr. Ryan said, referring to the neo-Nazi groups that held protests in Virginia last month.
It remains to be seen if Democrats will really work with Republicans on a tax plan or if they will try to prevent Mr. Trump from securing a major legislative win.
Mr. Ryan said that even though Mr. Trump surprised many Republicans with his outreach to Democrats this week, he believes that he can still count on the president to shepherd the first overhaul of the tax code since 1986.
“On tax reform, he’s very very engaged,” Mr. Ryan said. “He is very committed to selling tax reform.”
Watch the full conversation: