New House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan on Sunday renewed his vow to unify congressional Republicans but suggested no compromises with congressional Democrats on their push for immigration reform or passage of a family leave act.
The Wisconsin Republican told “Fox News Sunday” that he would change how House Republicans “do business” by ending the top-down leadership system and said the party needs a more “long-term” vision.
However, Ryan, who was elected Thursday to the speakership post, also called Democrat-backed paid family leave another federal entitlement.
“I don’t think people asked me to be speaker so I can take more money from hard-working taxpayers, so I can create some new federal entitlement,” he said.
Ryan also disagreed with all-out attempts by Washington Democrats in recent weeks to portray him as hypocritical for not supporting family leave legislation but insisting that he’d take the speakership post only if he was able to return to Wisconsin on weekends to be with his young family.
The passage of such legislation -- which would include paid maturity leave for female workers -- has been a priority for 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.
And for the past couple of weeks, party leaders have tried to show Ryan and 2016 GOP presidential candidates’ opposition to the idea through rallies in Ryan’s home state, on social media and in key voting states.
“You deserve quality time with your family,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida, said at a women’s forum two weeks ago in Washington. “But every mother and father in America deserves that time too. And we Democrats will be loud and clear in calling on you to make paid family leave a priority at the outset of your speakership.”
Ryan said Sunday: “So if you’re asking me, because I want to … continue being the best dad and husband and speaker … means I should sign up for some new, unfunded entitlement, that doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Ryan’s sharpest message for Democrats was perhaps on the issue of comprehensive reform for the U.S. immigration system, led by President Obama.
Ryan, who appeared on the five major Sunday political talk shows, said no such legislation will get passed during the president’s remaining 14 months in office.
“We can’t trust this president on immigration reform,” Ryan told Fox News. “He has already proven untrustworthy because he’s tried to circumvent the legislative process with is executive orders.”
However, Ryan allowed that Democrats and Republicans could achieve consensus on the issues of border security and enforcing fines for violating federal immigration laws. He also said that no immigration-reform bills would reach the House floor unless they have support from the majority of chamber Republicans.
On the issue of uniting the House Republican conference, Ryan told Fox News: “We have to show people where we’re going and what horizon we’re shooting for. I think we’ve been bold on tactics but not on policy.”
Ryan was voted in as new speaker after a tumultuous several weeks in which dissent among the House Republican conference’s most conservative members led to Ohio GOP Rep. John Boehner resigning from the speakership.
Ryan and Republican leaders insist Ryan was recruited for the job and accepted only after forming some consensus with the conservative caucus.
“I cannot pick up where John Boehner left off,” Ryan said Sunday, in the pre-taped Fox News interview. “I can’t do things the same way. We have to do things differently.
Among the concerns raised by the conservative caucus and other rank-and-file members are: their legislation not getting a full floor vote and who gets appointed to lead the committees.
A GOP House member told FoxNews.com on Friday that Ryan agrees that more legislation should come from the committees.
And on Sunday, Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said, “We need to get Congress working like it was intended to by our founders, a bottom-up, consensus driven process.”
Ryan repeated that he didn’t agree with the process that last week led to the two-year budget deal, which was driven by GOP House leaders, passed with full Democrat support but few Republican votes.
He said the process “stunk” but argued that members had to agree to the proposal, which included spending and borrowing increases, because of critical Nov. 3 and Dec. 11 deadlines.
“We fight over tactics because we don’t have a vision,” Ryan said. “Leadership presented us with a bill a few days beforehand.”
He also dismissed talk that he might have to attack Republicans in the GOP-run Senate for failing, as some argue, to pass legislation coming from the House.
“I don’t think we throw any Republicans under the bus,” Ryan said. “I was not asked to dis-unify the Republican Party in the Congress. … I wasn’t made dictator of the House. I was made speaker of the House.”