Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Putting Ryan Out Front Alters Immigration Debate Dynamic

This week’s most important development in the immigration debate has nothing to do with those testy exchanges at Monday’s Senate Judiciary hearings. It didn’t even happen in Washington. And the central player is one of President Barack Obama’s most prominent critics.

The event was a daylong swing through Chicago on Monday by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who ran for vice president last year on the Mitt Romney “self deport” platform and who has continued to make deficit reduction the focus of his congressional career and his 2016 national aspirations.

That all changed yesterday, when Ryan became by far the most prominent House Republican to endorse a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law. And, just to make sure everyone knew what sort of bill he has in mind, his sidekick for the tour was Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez. He’s the Chicago Democrat who’s leading negotiations by a “gang of eight” in the House; they say they’re closing in on a deal on legislation relatively similar to the effort unveiled by a counterpart bipartisan group of eight senators a week ago.

“We have a broken immigration system and, if anything, what we see in Boston is that we have to fix and modernize our immigration system for lots of reasons,” Ryan told reporters during a stop at a church and community house. He was rebutting the notion of some in the GOP that the debate should be put on hold until the immigration backstory and potential terrorist connections of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects is fully understood.

“National security reasons, economic security reasons. For all those reasons we need to fix our broken immigration system,” he said.

Ryan and Gutierrez took the same message to a luncheon for mostly business people at the City Club of Chicago. Ryan said Congress this year should enact legislation that improves border security, bolsters enforcement of existing immigration laws, establishes a new guest-worker program, creates an expedited pathway for children of undocumented immigrants to become fully legalized and sets a “path to earned legalization” for the 11 million now in the country illegally.

Until this point, Ryan has been a behind-the-scenes operator on the immigration front, making himself a conduit for messages between the four Republicans and four Democrats in the House working group, and between those GOP negotiators and leadership. Monday’s appearances signaled that the Budget Committee chairman is ready to use his national presence and his ability to draw significant coverage to push GOP colleagues to the negotiation finish line.

Publicly embracing an immigration overhaul now could also help Speaker John A. Boehner push a bill past recalcitrant conservatives once the Senate advances its initial version, probably early this summer. House leaders are keenly aware of the political imperative of securing a large bloc of GOP votes for the bill; without that they will have a tough time closing the enormous “Latino gap” in the polls before the midterm elections.

Ryan’s new prominence could also be a sign he’s decided that he had better make his move for the Hispanic vote sooner rather than later, especially if he plans to run for president in 2016 and sees Senate gang of eight member Marco Rubio of Florida as his principal competition for the GOP nomination.

At the same time, another prominent member positioning for 2016, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, pulled back significantly on Monday from his earlier wide-open support for a broad immigration overhaul. Paul urged a delay in the debate until  “we understand the specific failures of our immigration system” that allowed the Tsarnaev brothers to emigrate after their ethnic Chechen parents were granted political asylum.

The GOP primaries may be three years away, but Rubio, Paul and now Ryan clearly see immigration as a sure-thing defining issue for their presidential ambitions.

  • Vito Danelli

    All hail Little Paulie Ryan – da self-appointed “Budget Guru”. Remember the days when he was just another obedient lapdog in the George W Bush Kennel who voted for budget-busting legislation like No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D?

    • jcvolt

      At least he voted against the disastrous obamacare bill.

      • Vito Danelli

        ha ha ha – yeah, and Little Paulie Boy Ryan voted FOR MEDICARE PART D!!! Why wasn’t Little Paulie Boy whining about costs back then? Quite simple – Little Paulie was an obedient lapdog in the George W Bush Kennel.

        • jcvolt

          Part d was not about trying to control every aspect of our lives like o Obama care

          • Vito Danelli

            I’m trying to understand what exactly your point is. If ObamaCare is Big Government Spending and Control, then what do you consider Medicare Part D to be?
            I really can’t take you seriously. Your only point seems to be is that anything Obama is bad and evil, but of course when the born-again, dry-drunk War Criminal George W Bush does essentially the same thing, there’s a difference to you.

          • jcvolt

            You really don’t see the difference in an optional benefit for seniors and An oppressive mandate forced on us like communism that is already killing jobs and closing healthcare facilities before it even starts. Not to mention raising our premiums and being used to control our lives

          • Vito Danelli

            ha ha ha – jcvolt – I’ll have to assume that you’re some sort of GOP intern who trolls discussion boards to deflect any negative comments on Republicans. You do realize that Medicare Part D is funded from General Funds, don’t you? Ya think maybe that adds to the National Debt???

          • jcvolt

            All medicare and social security benefits are part of the general fund because the democrats in congress stole the trust fund to create a huge student loan program causing tuition to skyrocket but all those terrorist professors get to brainwash your kids so it was worth it huh?

          • Vito Danelli

            jcvolt – ha ha ha ha – now I know for certain that you’re just a GOP Intern Troll. So how did those democrats in Congress steal the Social Security Trust Fund?? Here’s your opportunity to impress us with your logic.

          • jcvolt

            Impress me. Learn some history. Start by going back to when they voted to make ss part of the general fund

  • Marcus Porcius

    Paul Ryan turning into the newest RINO on immigration. Very sad.

  • Kev

    Paul Ryan is an establishment hack, just like Boehner, Canter et al. This isn’t a game changer. Still just us vs them.

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