WASHINGTON -- New House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has a plan to avoid a damaging fight over government spending, but it was not clear Thursday that it extended beyond his own party.
Ryan, who took over after former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was unable to keep the bumptious GOP conference in line, said Thursday he would open decisions on the forthcoming omnibus spending bill to every member of his caucus in the House.
Congress must pass a spending bill by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats have insisted that they will not accept government funding that is loaded with unrelated riders, such as measures that would defund Planned Parenthood or attack Obamacare.
Ryan declined to rule out such steps, saying it would be entirely up to his members, all of whom would get a say in writing the six appropriations bills that have not yet come to the House floor out of the 12 that fund the government. (Six have already passed.)
"Every member will have a chance to review each bill and give their input on their priorities. We've never done this before, but that's how we should work," Ryan told reporters in his first solo news conference as House speaker.
While he refused to commit to blocking a Planned Parenthood measure that Democrats would see as a poison pill, he also laid out other ways his members might target the health care provider, such as through a new select committee looking into heavily edited sting videos, or through a separate piece of legislation that aims to defund the group.
"I'm not going to predetermine the outcome of negotiations that have not even taken place yet," Ryan said.
Democrats warned Republicans Thursday not to attach such riders, but seemed willing to give Ryan some leeway.
"What else could he say?" Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said just after Ryan spoke. "I think he's new at his job. I think he's trying to get his arms around the caucus that he has. I think he probably said the right thing."
But Reid did point to a reality that Ryan's GOP-only plan doesn't deal with -- it ensures only that legislation passes the Republican-led House.
"We have a bicameral legislature, and they need our votes to pass anything, pass it through the Senate," Reid said, repeating the stance that Democrats will not accept any riders that could not pass in the Senate on their own. "We've made our position very clear to the Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House, and the new speaker will have to work around what we've said."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Ryan may be in for a difficult time if he really wants every member of his conference to have a say on budget appropriations.
"I think that will be challenging, but it’s interesting. It’s curious, and I wish him well with it," said Pelosi, who also told reporters that as a former member of the Appropriations Committee she appreciated the expertise those members bring to bear. "I think that it’ll be an interesting dynamic to see how his appropriators react to his full conference weighing in on the bills of this committee, and calling it respect for the committee system."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.