Why Paul Ryan won't work with Obama on immigration reform

On Sunday, Paul Ryan,  the new Speaker of the House, said he won't work with the president on immigration. Why not?

J. Scott Applewhite
Newly-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is escorted to the House chamber following the resignation of John Boehner, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. With a new speaker in the House and a major budget-and-debt deal completed, lawmakers hope they are entering a welcome period of calm – even boredom – on Capitol Hill.

Just like his predecessor, the freshly elected speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has no qualms about opposing the White House. In a series of interviews Sunday, Rep. Ryan (R) of Wisconsin revealed that he has no intention of working with President Barack Obama on comprehensive immigration reform, an issue for which Obama had issued executive orders last year.

"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," Mr. Ryan said in an interview aired on the CBS program "Face the Nation."

"He tried to go it alone, circumventing the legislative process with his executive orders, so that is not in the cards. I think if we reach consensus on how best to achieve border and interior enforcement security, I think that's fine," Ryan added.

Mr. Obama’s executive orders from November 2014 circumvented the gridlocked partisan Congress, intending to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Challenged by courts around the nation, the mandate would’ve allowed 4.7 million immigrants to stay in the US, a significant portion of whom have children who are American citizens.

In a news briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called Ryan’s unwavering stance on immigration “a deep source of disappointment.”

Ryan appeared in five taped interviews Sunday, promoting his agenda as the new Speaker to unify his party and navigate relationships with his colleagues, the 2016 presidential candidates, and of course, Obama.

The Republicans, he said, need to become a “proposition party” in order to be successful in opposing the Democrats on issues like the Affordable Care Act or tax reform.

“We have been too timid for too long around here,” Mr. Ryan said on ABC’s “This Week.” “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.”

Comprehensive immigration reform has long been a bipartisan issue. In 2013, a group of Congressmen from both sides of the aisle got together and procured a framework for reform that passed in the Senate but has since been stalled in the House. Among the “Gang of Eight” Congressmen who worked on the legislation is Marco Rubio, a candidate for the 2016 presidential election.

Ryan said Sunday that he had promised the Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative Republicans responsible for John Boehner’s resignation, that he will not bring up comprehensive immigration reform.

"This president tried to write the law himself," Ryan told the CNN program "State of the Union," accusing Obama of exceeding his constitutional powers. "Presidents don't write laws. Congress writes laws."

Mr. Boehner has expressed regret in a “State of the Union” interview that the bipartisan framework did not pass the House.

"Reforming our immigration system, securing our borders would be good for America. But unfortunately the president just kept poisoning the well – poisoning the well – to the point where it was impossible to put it on the floor of the House," Boehner said.

If Ryan has his way, the matter will likely be deferred until at least January 2017, when a new president is sworn into office. But if the Oval Office is filled by another Democrat, immigration negotiations could remain on a back burner.

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