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Dem rips Ryan for 'weak excuse' on immigration

Dem rips Ryan for 'weak excuse' on immigration

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNow we know why Biden was afraid of a joint presser with Putin Zaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power MORE (R-Wis.) is using President Obama as a "fig leaf" to gloss over the Republican discord on immigration policy, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) charged Tuesday.

Obama has infuriated Republicans with a series of executive changes to deportation policy. Ryan has repeatedly said he won't consider immigration proposals while Obama is in office because Republicans can't trust him to carry them out in good faith.

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Hoyer, the Democratic whip, said the argument doesn't hold water because GOP leaders have joined forces with Obama to pass a long list of legislation on a variety of other topics. Ryan's refusal to consider the issue, Hoyer said, is rooted in his party's own dissension on the issue — a divide the Republicans don't want to highlight amid a presidential election.

"That rationale is completely without logical underpinning," Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "Clearly, they don't trust the president on a lot of things, but they continue to pass bills.  

"Now, if they don't trust him, pass a law that directs him to do something," Hoyer added. "The reason he has acted is because the Congress has not acted, and they have had no reservations, when they disagreed with the president, in passing legislation to change the law and change the policies."

Immigration reform has long been a radioactive issue for Republican leaders, caught between conservatives opposed to any special legalization benefits for undocumented immigrants and national party voices concerned that a refusal to take up comprehensive reforms could solidify the Hispanic vote for Democrats.

Obama won roughly 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in the last two cycles, and GOP leaders have scrambled to prevent that trend from repeating in 2016 and beyond.

Addressing those concerns, former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE (R-Ohio) attempted to move on immigration reform at the start of 2014, roughly six months after the Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill with broad bipartisan support. To launch that effort, the Republicans floated a set of reform "principles" designed to govern the House debate and ease conservative concerns that Congress would go too soft on illegal immigrants.

The strategy quickly failed when conservative Republicans revolted, largely over a provision allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and work without fear of deportation. Faced with the pressure from his right, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE shelved the issue for the year and blamed Obama for the impasse.

Ryan has been open to certain immigration reforms in his time on Capitol Hill. But stepping into the Speaker's chair following Boehner's resignation last week, he's been quick to adopt Boehner's argument that Obama is standing in the way of legislation.

"My positions are very well known and unchanged on this issue," Ryan told reporters Tuesday.

"But I think given the fact that President Obama tried to do an end-run around Congress to go it alone, to try to write laws himself unilaterally — which is not what presidents do, that's what Congress does — I think on this particular issue he has proven himself untrustworthy on this."

Hoyer has a different take.

"It is a weak excuse of trying to give their members a fig leaf to go to the overwhelming majority of the American public — who wants to see comprehensive immigration reform pass — and rationalize why they aren't moving it forward,” he said.