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Paul Ryan On The Issues - Where Does He Stand?

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. arrives for a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. arrives for a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.

Congressman Paul Ryan on Thursday formally announced he will run for speaker of the House of Representatives, after securing what he considers sufficient support from the discordant factions of his Republican Party.

If, as expected, Ryan is approved next week by his fellow House lawmakers, the 45-year-old former vice presidential candidate would become third-in-line to the presidency and would take on an even more pivotal role in influencing U.S. policy.

The congressman from the northern state of Wisconsin first was elected to the House in 1998, and has a long record of congressional votes and statements that reveal a generally mainstream conservative position on most issues.

Here is where Ryan stands on a number of topics:

Budget proposals

Having served for years as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan is mainly known for his persistent efforts to reduce the U.S. government's massive budget deficit. He would attempt to do this in part by scaling back or privatizing big government-run social welfare programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, which he says are too expensive and unsustainable.

Lower taxes

Earlier this year, Ryan became chair of the House Ways and Means and Committee, which focuses on tax policy. Ryan has called the position a "dream job," and has used the post to promote his plans to lower taxes for both businesses and individuals. He has also been working on a proposal to overhaul the U.S. tax code, which he says is "notoriously complex, patently unfair, and highly inefficient."


Ryan is an ardent critic of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care policy. "The law spends trillions of dollars we don't have, raises taxes on workers, businesses and families, and puts the federal government squarely in the middle of health care decisions," according to a statement on Ryan's website. He has been working with his Republican colleagues on an alternative plan to the bill.

Foreign policy

Throughout his 16-year career in Congress, Ryan has not strayed far from establishment Republican positions on foreign policy. In his public statements, he has generally been supportive of the U.S. doing more to project its strength around the world.

Ryan supported U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later was in favor of keeping troops in those countries to preserve military gains. He has also blamed what he sees as Obama's weak foreign policy for the rise of the Islamic State group, which he says should be taken out with the help of a decisive, U.S.-led military campaign. He also opposes the Iran nuclear agreement, calling it a "terrible deal."

As a young congressman Ryan spoke out against the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, according to The New York Times, putting him at odds with many in his party. But he has since reversed his position and is now a critic of White House attempts to reengage with the communist-led country.

Ryan has also criticized Obama's response to Russia's increasingly aggressive posture in Ukraine and Syria, calling the White House's attempted diplomatic "reset" with Moscow a "total failure."

Free trade

One area of agreement between Ryan and Obama is global trade policy. Ryan was especially supportive of negotiations leading to the recently agreed-upon Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. Although he has not yet formally endorsed the deal, a Ryan speakership is seen as possibly boosting the chances the agreement will be passed through Congress, which has been split over the issue.

Social issues

Although not a main focus, Ryan has taken a solidly conservative position on most social issues. He has twice voted in favor of changing the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman, although he did in 2007 support a bill to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

He takes a firm stance against abortion, and is a staunch proponent of gun rights, having received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, the nation's powerful gun rights lobbying organization. Ryan has shown more flexibility on the issue of legalizing marijuana, saying that while he is personally against it, he would let individual states decide their own policy.


On immigration, he is out of step with many in the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, having expressed support for allowing a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Recent news reports say Ryan has promised fellow Republicans he will not bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill to the floor while he is speaker, saying the issue would be too divisive and would likely be opposed by President Obama anyway.