Speaker Ryan: Don't wait for a GOP nominee on policy

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said one of the major lessons he learned as his party's vice presidential nominee in 2012 is not to wait until the summer before an election to begin proposing ideas.

"If you wait until late summer, end of summer, to then roll out what you believe in and what your agenda is, I think it's too late. So that's why we're going to go early," Ryan said in an interview that aired on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Among the issues he said the GOP should propose are an alternative to Obamacare and ideas to help get people out of poverty. Last week Congress passed a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act using an obscure budgetary process, although it is certain to receive a presidential veto that will be difficult to override. They have not passed a bill that would replace the healthcare law with something else.

Ryan said he's not sure how far an Obamacare replacement would go while Mr. Obama remains in office, but that shouldn't deter his party from proposing ideas.

"We as Republicans, if we don't like these laws, don't like the direction the country's going, I think we have to be more than just an opposition party. We have to be a proposition party. So if we don't like this, we got to show how we would do things differently," he said.

Moderator John Dickerson asked about how the GOP can come together around a set of ideas when deep divisions exist within the party on issues like trade and immigration. He noted that Donald Trump, who still leads national polls of the Republican primary, opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Ryan supports, and the budget deal he helped shepherd through Congress at the end of last year.

"We're a big tent party. I think what we do as leaders, as we say who we are, what we believe, and where we want to lead, and let the people decide," he said.

He acknowledged that primaries "inevitably have this kind of friction" as candidates jockey to distinguish themselves from their opponents for the party's nomination.

"Do I agree or disagree with various candidates on various issues? Of course I do. I mean, we're individuals. But can we offer the country a really clear and compelling choice that's not divisive but inclusive, that's inspirational, that's pro-growth? That's what I'm trying to do," Ryan said. He added later, "Once you get through the primary, I think we unify the conservative movement, we unify the cause, and we go out and we try and win converts to conservatism."

Ryan also pledged to support the eventual nominee, even if it is Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

He was interviewed at the Jack Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, a summit to deal with poverty that is named for one of Ryan's political mentors, former Rep. Jack Kemp. Since his loss in the 2012 presidential campaign, Ryan traveled the country studying the issue before releasing an anti-poverty plan in 2014.

He said past presidential campaigns have make a "mistake" by not traveling to the poorest areas of the country to recruit supporters.

"We need to do that. I think it's a mistake that's been made. I think that's exactly right. We have got to go and compete for the minds and the hearts and the votes of everybody in this country no matter who they are," Ryan said. "What I think we've had is one party takes a group of people for granted. And the other party has not paid attention to them."

He also repeated criticism of the president's executive actions on guns this week, which sought to clarify who must have a license to sell firearms. Ryan says Mr. Obama has never respected the Second Amendment, and that a Republican president will roll his actions back.

"This is basically the president looking for an issue to exploit in some ways. Because these so-called solutions that he's talking about, they would not have stopped any of these shootings," Ryan said. "I think he would like to go much, much further than what the Second Amendment allows."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.