U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, joined his GOP colleagues from the state's House delegation in supporting a bill that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. without first going through strict background checks.
The White House pushed back against the bill. But the 289-137 vote was more than the two-thirds majority of those voting that would be needed to override a veto. Eight lawmakers did not vote on the bill, including two Republicans who could push the tally past the 290-vote mark needed for a two-thirds majority if all 435 members cast ballots.
Dems Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and Mark Pocan, D-Madison, opposed the bill.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan announced his intention to block the nation's intake of refugees from Syria, expressing concerns that terrorists from the region could use the program to gain entry to the United States.
At a news conference early in the week, Ryan said "we cannot allow terrorists to take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it is better to be safe than to be sorry." He rejected critical comments from President Barack Obama, who accused Republicans of "political posturing." Ryan called Obama's actions in the Syrian refugee crisis "remarkably unpresidential" during an appearance on Fox News.
On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. without first going through strict background checks. The White House pushed back against the bill. But the 289-137 vote was more than the two-thirds majority of those voting that would be needed to override a veto. Eight lawmakers did not vote on the bill, including two Republicans who could push the tally past the 290-vote mark needed for a two-thirds majority if all 435 members cast ballots.
Ryan had faced considerable pressure from Republicans to halt Syrian entry, with all of the GOP presidential candidates expressing support for limits on refugee intake. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee even called for the speaker to step down if unable to stop the flow of Syrian refugees, and Ben Carson penned a letter to Ryan asking for Congress to block funding for programs that resettle those fleeing Syria.
Ryan also weighed in on the GOP presidential field, anticipating a long-haul race that will prove unpredictable. He said it would be a mistake to dismiss the outsider candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump.
But Ryan said he "can't imagine" how GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's call to detain and deport an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants would work, and said he does not support the plan. While the Janesville Republican expressed support for a pathway to legal status, he told "60 Minutes" he won't support a path to full citizenship.
Ryan said he remains open to working with the Obama Administration on other policy issues, including the federal budget and a highway funding bill.
In this Ryan Rundown: Speaker Paul Ryan's week was off to a strong start with an early victory in the House passage of a multiyear transportation bill with some bipartisan support. The funding plan authorized around $340 billion over six years, with a last-minute amendment that could add another $40 billion to the total.
And Ryan's chosen successor for the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, beat out challenger U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, in a closed-door meeting of the House Steering Committee. The vote is predicted to be the last of the Steering Committee in its current form, as Ryan has vowed to overhaul the internal functions of the committee-assigning panel before Thanksgiving.
Despite early wins, some news outlets questioned how long Ryan's honeymoon phase with Republican lawmakers will last. The specter of government shutdown still looms as conservative Republicans remain skeptical of the $80 billion two-year budget ahead of the Dec. 11 deadline. In response, Ryan formed an advisory group that will hold weekly sessions to discuss policy items like Planned Parenthood funding and increased control of the Environmental Protection Agency, which are sticking points for some conservative contingents.
The Janesville Republican was the target of criticism from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, for his pledge to delay immigration reform until President Barack Obama leaves office in 2017. Durbin pointed to Ryan's previous support of a "path to earned legalization," excerpted from a speech in 2013, entreating the speaker to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Finally, Ryan's biggest hurdle may be overcoming a 41-year low in congressional approval. Shortly after he assumed the speakership, a new Gallup poll found 86 percent of Americans disapprove of the U.S. Congress. Just 8 percent of Republican respondents said they approved of Congress, dipping below a similarly low 11 percent approval from Democrats, and 13 percent from independents.
This is the first edition of the Ryan Rundown, a weekly look at news about Wisconsin's first speaker of the House.
In the week since House Republicans selected U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to succeed John Boehner as speaker, the congressman has enjoyed an outflow of support from fellow conservatives, tempered by opposition from several GOP legislators.
In addition to the challenge of uniting Republican factions within the House, observers say Ryan must work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to improve the relationship between the bodies if he wants to advance his legislative agenda. While Republicans control both chambers, many view McConnell's grip in the Senate as more tenuous due to the Democrats' ability to filibuster.
Shortly after his election, Ryan announced his reluctance to work with the White House on immigration reform. During his maneuvering before the vote, he caught flack from some critics for focusing on his family time as a condition of taking the job while continuing to oppose the expansion of paid family leave.
And although Boehner left a completed budget framework as a parting gift, Ryan will still need to ensure the measure receives congressional approval before Dec. 11. He also faces work on divisive issues such as Planned Parenthood funding, tax reform, and the highway budget bill.
Ryan also made some staff changes in the wake of his elevation to speaker. Andy Speth has moved from chief of staff to become senior advisor and Danyell Tremmel is now Ryan's chief of staff after serving most recently as his district chief of staff. Allison Steil is moving from policy director to deputy chief of staff and Katie Donnell, who joined Ryan's office in January as a legislative assistant, is now his legislative director.
Rep. Paul Ryan may be speaker of the House now, but he's "still Paul Ryan, living in Janesville," he told Wisconsin reporters today.
He said his newest job isn't "all that different than other responsibilities" he's assumed since first taking office in 1999 at the age of 28. As chairman of the Budget Committee and then the tax-policy Ways and Means panel, he always focused on the 1st District and the Badger State, Ryan said.
"I consider the 1st District my family," Ryan said.
In explaining how he went from having no interest in succeeding John Boehner, R-Ohio, to becoming, at 45, the youngest House leader in more than 150 years, Ryan said it was a "two-week conversion."
"Mr. Speaker," is "something I never thought I'd be called," Ryan said. "I always just completely rejected it," he said of attempts over the years by colleagues to draft him for the post.
But once Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's bid to move up the ladder fizzled, Ryan went home for the scheduled weeklong recess and talked to family, friends and a lot of people whose opinions he values.
He concluded he was "called to serve" and had a duty to take on the task of trying to unify a chaotic House GOP Conference.
He also concluded the role needed a complete overhaul.
"I don't think this job would work if you just pick up where John Boehner left off," he said. He laid out his vision to fellow Republicans and most liked what they heard. Ultimately, 236 chose him as speaker, including all but six members of the rebellious House Freedom Caucus that helped drive Boehner into retirement.
That vision includes a return to "regular order" where committee chairmen will drive the legislative process and rank-and-file members will have their voices heard, Ryan told the chamber Thursday during his acceptance speech.
"The House is broken," he said. "We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business. We need to let every member contribute. ... In other words, we need to return to regular order."
He said he's tackling the position from "a different path" than the one charted by Boehner and former Speaker Dennis Hastert where leadership often took over drafting major legislation with little input from rank-and-file members, or even chairmen. Massive bills were presented to lawmakers mere hours before coming to the House floor and sweeping spending and debt packages were negotiated behind closed doors among only a handful of congressional leaders.
Ryan wants to encourage a "more participatory" approach where policy is written at the committee level, consensus is reached and debate is robust.
"Power has been too concentrated," Ryan said. The House is "too bottled up." He will allow more amendments and more legislation to hit the House floor. "Bills may fail because Congress will work its will," he said, offering a view that goes against the grain.
For at least the past 15 years, speakers have scheduled for floor consideration only bills they know can pass, or are very confident can find last-minute support. When a bill, or even a rule governing debate, is in jeopardy, they usually pull the legislation to give themselves more time to ensure victory.
The once reluctant Republican leader says he's now excited to lead his party into a new era. He plans to make House Republicans "a proposition party; an alternative party," not just a group that rejects most proposals, Ryan said.
Republicans must offer a clear vision to the country, he said. And they must unify.
"If I'm in for a dime, I'm in for a dollar," he said.