Some conservatives had been reluctant to back the lawmaker for speaker because of the issue
WASHINGTON—Rep. Paul Ryan, just days into his tenure as House speaker, has ruled out for now prospects for sweeping changes in U.S. immigration laws, making good on promises he made to conservatives while running for his new job.
Mr. Ryan, by declaring Sunday that he would oppose advancing comprehensive immigration legislation until after next year’s presidential elections, put to rest an issue that had been a chief concern of the most conservative Republicans in Congress.
“We won’t bring immigration legislation with a president we cannot trust on this issue,” Mr. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said on ABC, a message he delivered in other Sunday interviews. He added that more limited legislation, “like border enforcement and interior security,” remains possible.
Mr. Ryan’s decision came as he balances his pledge to take on difficult issues with the political reality of rebellious lawmakers who are suspicious of his positions, especially on immigration policy. Some conservatives were reluctant to vote for Mr. Ryan for speaker last week because he has supported a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally.
Mr. Ryan came under particular pressure from the House Freedom Caucus, which said it had extracted a promise from Mr. Ryan not to pursue immigration legislation during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Mr. Ryan, who was involved in earlier efforts to get his party behind an immigration bill, is the latest Republican to pull back on the question with 2016 elections just a year away. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a presidential contender who had helped craft a bipartisan immigration overhaul that passed the Senate but wasn’t taken up by the House, also has backed away from his own position in favor of a more incremental approach. Republican candidate Jeb Bush also has eased backed from an earlier position in favor of a pathway to citizenship, now focusing on legal status.
Mr. Ryan won the House speakership last week with only nine Republican defections. In an internal GOP election to choose a Republican nominee for speaker, some 43 Republicans had voted for an alternative candidate.