Speaking to reporters Thursday, Ryan said he doesn’t want to see a process that turns “the floor over to the minority” and “ends up with a veto.”
“I would like to have an immigration vote before the midterms, but I want to have a vote on something that can make it into law,” he said. “I don’t want to have, you know, show ponies.”
A group of House Republicans is seeking enough signatures for a discharge petition that would put four competing immigration bills on the floor, including a bill that many conservatives support and a bill of the speaker’s choosing. The move is an end-run around Ryan, who has sat on the conservatives’ bill as it continues to lack enough votes to pass and not moved toward any alternatives.
The Senate held a similar floor debate in February in which lawmakers voted on four different proposals that would address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. None of the four, however, got the 60 votes needed to move forward. One bipartisan compromise bill came close, falling six short of the 60 needed to advance legislation in the Senate, after being aggressively criticized by the administration. The President’s own proposal fell 21 votes short, even with a handful of Democrats supporting it.
Ryan pointed to the failed Senate effort. “So that speaks to just how tough this issue is, but I don’t want to spend all our time passing a bill that I know is going to get vetoed.”
When a reporter noted that the discharge petition would allow a vote on a bill that the President has previously praised and has support among conservatives, Ryan said, “I believe what I said is what I said.”
Lawmakers and the White House have long played a game of hot potato with the notion of what can become law. Even as it was apparent that the White House framework would not pass the Senate, the administration rejected any alternatives and doubled down on its proposal. Though President Donald Trump publicly said in a meeting with bipartisan lawmakers that he would probably send whatever the Congress agreed to, his officials later clarified he meant that only as long as the bill met his standards, and dug in its heels on including substantial cuts to legal immigration in any compromise, something even many Republicans have balked at.
In the Senate, lawmakers have pointed to the House and the White House as reasons to vote against various compromises, saying anything the Senate might pass with heavily Democratic backing would ultimately fail in the House or suffer a veto.
In becoming speaker, Ryan pledged to not call for a vote any bill that did not have a majority of Republican support. An immigration bill passed under the proposed four-bill rule could pass with substantially Democratic support.