Ryan Vows to Find Solution to DACA, Immigration Reform

 Gabrielle Levy

House Speaker Paul Ryan promised on Thursday to "bring a solution to the floor" on immigration but emphasized the need to finish work on a budget deal first.

"To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not," the Wisconsin Republican said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, set to expire March 5.

"We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign," he added. "We must pass this budget agreement first though, o that we can get on to that. So please know that we are committed to getting this done."

The Obama-era program shields young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, known as Dreamers, from deportation. In September, President Donald Trump ordered the program to wind down and pressed Congress to pass a legislative fix.

Debates over immigration – the Dreamers' status, as well as a series of changes to legal immigration and border security enhancements – have snarled the budget debate for months, leading to last month's three-day shutdown.

In the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised to allow "the Senate to work its will" in open floor debate on immigration, the budget bill is expected to pass on Thursday with little fanfare.

While several bipartisan proposals have been announced, Trump has scrambled talks more than once by backing away from handshake agreements, making crude remarks about African and Caribbean nations and attacking some of the lawmakers on Twitter.

Ryan's promise came on the heels of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's marathon floor speech Wednesday in which the California Democrat read stories about DACA recipients for more than eight hours in an effort to extract a promise from Ryan to allow open debate on an immigration bill on the floor.

Ryan's promises on Thursday did not appear to be enough to get Pelosi and other Democrats on board, although some could still support the budget agreement.

While Pelosi said earlier on Thursday that she would not vote for the budget deal but neither would she whip her caucus against it, House Democratic leaders shifted tactics after Ryan spoke.

"Unlike in the Senate, there is no agreement that the House will even consider legislation to protect Dreamers," a notice sent to Democrats encouraging them to reject the budget bill said. "By leaving this vital issue unresolved, this package leaves Dreamers isolated, without a path to resolution in the House."

Around the same time, the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc some 30 conservatives, officially came out opposed to the budget bill, indicating at least 80 percent of their members planned to vote against it.

"We support funding our troops, but growing the size of government by 13 percent is not what the voters sent us here to do," the group said in a statement.

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