Ryan Downplays Broken Immigration Promise As a Delay

Promised July vote on agriculture guest worker program would've failed

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., says a promised July vote on an agriculture guest worker bill did not happen because it would've failed and that members will spend August continuing to build support for the measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Downplaying his failure to deliver on a promised July vote on a bill to expand an agriculture guest worker program, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday it would’ve failed. 

House Republicans plan to spend their August recess working on getting the votes to pass the bill, the Wisconsin Republican said on “Fox & Friends.“ 

The guest worker measure is also expected to include a provision to require employers to use the E-Verify system to check the legal status of their employees.

“The very members that we’ve been working with have asked us to hold off on having that vote so that we can make sure we have the votes to pass it when we bring it to the floor,“ Ryan said.

Some members who had been promised the vote disagree with Ryan’s characterization.

Florida GOP Rep. Dennis Ross agreed not to sign a discharge petition to force floor votes on a series of broader immigration measures because Ryan had promised him the guest worker vote would occur before the August recess. 

While he agrees with the sentiment of not wanting the bill to fail, he disagrees with leadership’s assessment that was guaranteed to happen if it were brought to the floor this month. 

“I think if we had leadership lean into it enough, I think we could’ve passed it,” Ross said. 

Nonetheless, he said he’s willing to work with leadership to ensure that ultimately is the outcome.

“The speaker said, ‘I’m going to work with you over August to get members. I’m going to reach across the aisle to try to get some members. And hopefully we’ll have a vote in September,’” Ross said. 

A September vote seems to more of a goal than a new commitment, however, Ross acknowledged. 

Asked if he wished he had signed the discharge petition, Ross said, “Not yet. But I’m closer.”

The vote coalition building is tricky. Members from agriculture heavy districts generally support the guest worker program, but there are still some outside farm groups that oppose it. 

Adding the E-Verify requirement draws more conservatives to support the bill, but it also repels some moderates in the process. Ross said he still thinks its best to have E-Verify in.

While Ross is clearly a little upset about the broken promise, he was ultimately understanding and said he knows leadership needs to be involved if the bill is ultimately to pass. 

Other Republicans were also generally sympathetic, although it’s not clear that they themselves pushed for the delay, as Ryan suggested. 

Texas GOP Rep. Randy Weber said a few members spoke during the open mic portion of the weekly House Republican Conference meeting Tuesday to affirm they were fine with leadership’s plan to continue working the bill.

“There were members who stood up and said look, ‘We support y’all on that,’ he said. “This narrative about leadership went back on their word is not accurate.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.