House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday played with a drone, sat in an autonomous vehicle and told Intel executives why business taxes are too high.
For him, that was the fun part of his visit to the huge electronics firm that is a cornerstone of Oregon’s economy.
The tougher part was gliding over his differences with President Donald Trump. The latest had arisen at a Tuesday night rally in Phoenix when the president threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress didn’t fund his proposed wall along the Mexican border.
Ryan sought to tamp down the idea that the federal government might once again shutter many of its services if Congress and the president can’t agree on spending legislation by the end of September.
“I don’t think anyone’s interested in having a shutdown,” Ryan said.
He added it’s not “in our interest to do so” given that the House has already included money for more border security.
Ryan also responded diplomatically when asked about Trump’s criticism of Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. Trump referred derisively to McCain’s vote against proceeding on an Obamacare repeal. And the president called Flake weak on crime and immigration.
“I think the president feels that is a strategy that works for him,” Ryan said when asked about Trump’s attacks on the two senators. “I would just say it’s important that we all stay unified as Republicans to complete our agenda.”
Ryan also kept his disagreements with Trump on immigration unstated when the subject came up in a meeting he held with Intel employees.
Trump backs legislation that would cut legal immigration. Ryan said he backs some changes to the immigration system, but he said that the U.S. is going to need foreign workers to fill in for the “demographic crunch” caused by the wave of baby-boomer retirements.
Ryan’s stop at Intel follows several others he has made at major American companies to talk about taxes.
“Our current tax code is a junker,” he said. “It is a jalopy.”
He argued American business tax rates are too high compared to foreign competitors and said that is one reason companies are discouraged from manufacturing in the U.S.
Ryan seemed to particularly enjoy getting the opportunity to fly a drone around a conference room at Intel’s Ronler Acres facility in Hillsboro.
“I’m just messing with you guys,” he said with a laugh when the drone got close to a group of reporters.
Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon’s only GOP congressman, accompanied Ryan and his visit. Later in the afternoon, Ryan was scheduled to appear at a political fundraiser for Walden at Portland’s Waverley Country Club.