Looming shutdown may end Paul Ryan's honeymoon with conservatives

Willie Grace | 11/9/2015, 1:48 p.m.
After the tumultuous few weeks that led up to Paul Ryan taking over as the new House speaker, his first ...
Rep. Paul Ryan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After the tumultuous few weeks that led up to Paul Ryan taking over as the new House speaker, his first week on the job was a honeymoon from the Republican infighting that sidelined his predecessor, John Boehner. It was productive too.

But there were signs already that the goodwill might not last long for the young speaker who faces many tough choices in the weeks ahead, including how far he is willing to push efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and other conservative priorities and risk a government shutdown.

Ryan shepherded a significant multi-year transportation bill through a rare process that included three days of debate and votes on dozens of amendments on the House floor. Members on both sides of the aisle praised their ability to weigh in on the long overdue bill, the first major rewrite of a highway and infrastructure construction bill in a decade.

The speaker touted his "great week" in his first solo press conference at the Capitol on Thursday, pointing to the bipartisan transportation bill.

"It cuts waste. It prioritizes good infrastructure. It will help create good-paying jobs. And it is the result of a more open process," Ryan said.

Many of the conservatives who had ripped Boehner for crafting major policy proposals with little input from rank and file members, were happy they could weigh in on the highway bill. But the process they demanded from the new speaker yielded a final product that violated a key test for conservatives -- the legislation authorized six years of construction projects but only had money to pay for the first three years.

But they gave Ryan a free pass because he gave them one thing they say Boehner never did -- a chance to have their say.

"If it were John Boehner, we'd have two or three amendments and move on. He'd call K Street and ask, 'What do you want us to offer in order to make it happen,' so at least there is a sense there's not a fix that's in on this," Rep Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus who voted against the bill, told CNN.

Ryan's November 1 round of interviews on all five Sunday talk shows was a deliberate effort to set himself apart from Boehner, who was more selective about media appearances. At the weekly closed door meeting with all House Republicans, Ryan's disciplined message earned him a round of applause and praise for his role as an effective point person to promote a conservative agenda.

But even Ryan admitted his honeymoon wasn't likely to last and warned his "bottom up" approach may not always play out the way members from his own party want.

"Bills will come up that may not pass," Ryan told reporters on Thursday.

Shutdown deadline coming up

But one must-pass bill that Ryan knows could determine whether House Republicans stick with him is the government funding bill that needs President Barack Obama's signature by December 11 or it will trigger a government shutdown.