WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday stood by President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries, ending days of public silence on the matter with only gentle criticism that “regrettably, the rollout was confusing.”
“We need to make sure that the vetting standards are up to snuff,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at the Capitol, saying he remained broadly supportive of the order and citing a “very good conversation” with John F. Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary.
“Now, I think it’s regrettable that there was some confusion on the rollout of this,” Ryan added. “No one wanted to see people with green cards or special immigrant visas, like translators, get caught up in all of this.”
The speaker’s cautious handling of this early flash point highlights the path he has chosen, at least so far, in the tumultuous age of Trump: For now, anyway, Ryan does not want to make enemies at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
For some allies and longtime admirers of Ryan, the episode has been difficult to stomach.
They had watched the speaker position himself last year as the party’s conscience, consistently breaking with the Republican nominee. Since the election, dissent has been muted, and relations have improved.
“It’s got to be just exquisitely painful for him,” said Charlie Sykes, a longtime conservative Wisconsin radio host and friend of Ryan’s. “It’s this ongoing calculation that you need to be allied in order to get your agenda put through. And yet the price tag keeps going up all the time.”
Despite the concerns raised by some prominent Republican voices, like Senator John McCain of and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ryan’s position appears to closely resemble that of most Republicans in the House, where Trump’s order seems to enjoy considerable support.
Several House Republicans, meeting before Ryan’s remarks, defended the order and the president’s behavior in recent days, shrugging off any turmoil that has resulted from it.
“I don’t sense any split in the Republicans ranks,” said North Carolina Representative Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.
The chaos that Trump has wrought in Washington “was not a focus” of the meeting, Meadows said. “Any comments would have been minor in scope.”