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Paul Ryan says immigration debate 'next big priority'

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Without making any new promises, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he was committed to bringing an immigration bill to the floor as the "next big priority" to protect so-called Dreamers from deportation by a March deadline.

Ryan is trying to strike a delicate balance by appealing to Democrats and his own centrist Republicans -- whose votes he needs to pass a sweeping budget deal -- while not specifically embracing any particular legislative proposal that could alienate conservatives or be met with disapproval by President Donald Trump, whose support he needs for any immigration plan.

"To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not," Ryan said, referring to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought here as children from deportation. Trump is ending the program March 5, but a court case is allowing it to continue temporarily.

"Please know that we are committed to getting this done."

The speaker's remarks came a day after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor for eight hours, pressing Ryan for a commitment -- similar to one Senate Leader Mitch McConnell made -- to quickly address the issue.

Both parties want to prevent deportations of the nearly 700,000 immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally as minors but now can work or attend school as young adults under DACA.

Ryan had promised when he took hold of the speaker's gavel in 2015 that he would not consider legislation unless it has support from most of the GOP majority -- all but dashing hopes of a compromise with Democrats -- but he since has softened that approach and said he will bring forward a bill Trump will sign.

 

On Thursday, Ryan ventured a bit further, suggesting the ultimate bill would be bipartisan.

"I'm confident we can bring a bipartisan solution to the floor that can get signed into law and solve this problem," he said.

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