WASHINGTON — Representative Paul D. Ryan, the new House speaker, said in a series of interviews televised on Sunday that he will not work with the Obama administration on immigration policy reform, effectively pushing off the issue to at least 2017.
“Look, I think it would be a ridiculous notion to try and work on an issue like this with a president we simply cannot trust on this issue,” Ryan said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He tried to go it alone, circumventing the legislative process with his executive orders, so that is not in the cards.”
The message from Ryan, who was elected on Thursday, signaled an antagonism toward the White House that both echoed his predecessor, John A. Boehner, and is likely to appeal to the conservatives within the party that forced the previous speaker’s resignation.
It came, in one form or another, in taped appearances on five Sunday morning television talk shows, where Ryan laid out an agenda for unifying his party and outlined his approach to relationships with congressional colleagues, President Obama, and the Republican presidential candidates.
When asked Sunday to comment on Ryan’s statements about immigration, a White House spokesman referred back to Friday’s news briefing, in which Josh Earnest, the press secretary, called Ryan’s stance — which had been reported based on private meetings — “a source of deep disappointment.”
Ryan said that if the Republicans are to be a successful opposition party until the presidential election, they will need to become an aggressive “proposition party,” laying out a clear policy vision with alternatives to Democrats, such as a plan for reforming the tax code and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
“We have been too timid for too long around here,” Ryan said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We have been bold on tactics but not on policy, not on an agenda. We have to show people what our alternatives are and that is the kind of leadership I think people are hungry for here.”
Such proactive agenda-setting, Ryan added, will help avert the kind of brinkmanship over spending that was common under Boehner’s leadership. It also requires that congressional leaders be “honest with people up front about what it is you can and cannot achieve,” Ryan said in response to a question on CNN’s “State of the Union” about defunding Planned Parenthood.
Ryan repeatedly made it clear he will take a different approach than Boehner, whose almost five years as speaker were fraught with Republican Party infighting. In a nod to the conservatives who pushed for Boehner’s ouster and have demanded that power in the House be decentralized, Ryan said the speaker’s job is to facilitate consensus, not to be “dictator of the House.”
“I don’t think leadership should be trying to, you know, covet power and write legislation,” he said in another interview, with “Fox News Sunday.” “I think I want to have a more participatory process, which is really what the founders envisioned the House to look like. And that is something that so many of us, myself included, have been concerned about the way this place has been run.”
Ryan, who was the Republican Party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, was careful not to wade into discussion around the fight for the Republican nomination, saying he would remain neutral until the party chooses its candidate. The Republican presidential aspirants, he added, have offered a model for the kind of policy alternatives he hopes to see in the House.
“I looked at that stage and said every one of these people would be a far better president than Hillary Clinton,” he said on ABC.
Ryan briefly addressed his own personal qualms with taking the speaker’s job, which he said he never wanted. His thinking underwent “a metamorphosis over a few weeks,” as he realized the role he could play in “wiping the slate clean” in the House and the ways it does business, Ryan said.
As he made clear during his courtship, Ryan said that as speaker he will continue commuting every week between Washington and his home in Janesville, Wis., where his wife and three young children live. In Washington, he will continue to sleep in his old House office, rather than the speaker’s suite, which his staff is trying to rid of the odor of Boehner’s cigarettes.
Asked by “Fox News Sunday” how long he expected his honeymoon period as speaker to last, Ryan offered a quick joke.
“About 35 minutes,” he said.
Ryan said that under his leadership the appropriation process, in which Congress funds the government by passing 12 separate spending bills, would be back on track.
Some Republicans have criticized Boehner for failing to pass appropriations bills in an attempt to win concessions from the White House on policy issues.
Appearing on CNN, Boehner said he “laid every ounce of Catholic guilt I could on him” to persuade Ryan to run for speaker. “It was obvious to me that he was the right person for the job, and I had to do everything I could to convince him.”