Speaking on several Sunday television shows, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan vowed that he will not cooperate with President Barack Obama on reforming immigration law and policies, thereby delaying the issue until 2017 and into the next presidential administration. “Look, I think it would be a ridiculous notion to try and work on an issue like this with a president we simply cannot trust on this issue,” said Ryan on November 1 on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He tried to go it alone, circumventing the legislative process with his executive orders, so that is not in the cards.”
Ryan laid out on five talk shows his agenda for unifying his party and his approach to colleagues in Congress, the White House, and Republican presidential candidates. However, the White House has already signaled its displeasure with the newly elected Speaker. On October 30, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Ryan is “a source of deep disappointment.”
On ABC’s "This Week" show, Ryan was asked about his promise to the House Freedom Caucus that he will not bring immigration reform to the House floor while President Obama is in office. His answer was frank:
RYAN: Yeah, I think he’s proven untrustworthy on this issue. He tried to go around Congress with an Executive Order to rewrite laws unilaterally. Presidents don’t write laws. Congress writes laws. So yes, I do not believe we should and we won’t bring immigration legislation with a president we cannot trust on this issue. If we believe and have consensus on things like border enforcement, and interior security, then that’s fine. But this is not an issue I believe we can or should be able to work with this president on.”
Opponents of the Republicans were quick to criticize. For example, the liberal Politicususa website reported on Ryan’s television appearance with the headline “Paul Ryan Smears President Obama On National Television While Refusing To Do His Own Job.”
Ryan said that the GOP should become aggressive at being a “proposition party” if it is to be effective in opposing the Democrats. For example, he said, Republicans should offer tax code reform and a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. “We have been too timid for too long around here,” said Ryan said on ABC’s “This Week.” He added, “We have been bold on tactics but not on policy, not on an agenda. We have to show people what our alternatives are, and that is the kind of leadership I think people are hungry for here.” Being proactive in making legislative proposals, said Ryan in response to a question on CNN, requires that leaders in congress should be “honest with people up front about what it is you can and cannot achieve.”
“We fight over tactics because we don’t have a vision,” said Speaker said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve been too timid on policy; we’ve been too timid on vision — we have none.”
Ryan set himself apart from former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who saw considerable dissonance within the ranks. “I don’t think leadership should be trying to, you know, covet power and write legislation,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think I want to have a more participatory process, which is really what the founders envisioned the House to look like. And that is something that so many of us, myself included, have been concerned about the way this place has been run.”
When he asked on “Fox News Sunday” how honeymoon period as Speaker will last, Ryan said “About 35 minutes,” he said.
Despite differences Ryan has had in the past with Donald Trump over immigration issues, the new Speaker said he would support whichever candidate comes out on top in 2016. In July, Ryan responded to Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants, saying that the real estate mogul does not “speak for the Republican Party.” This came after Trump suggested that immigrants entering the U.S. are rapists and criminals. Said Ryan, “Every one of these people would be a far better president than Hillary Clinton," he said. "We’re having a good primary process. It's cathartic, it's helpful."
Ryan has been tagged by some in the Tea Party movement as soft on immigration since he has supported immigration reform in the past, and even tried to bring a vote to the floor of the House on the issue in 2014. However, he now says that he will not bring immigration again to the floor without the full support of his party.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.