Ryan at the March 2014 CPAC
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

House Republican leadership keeps stressing how hard it’ll be to pass immigration reform in 2014. A lot of people take that as a sign that they’re giving up on trying to sell it to their caucus’s reluctant majority. That might not be the case: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and GOP vice-presidential candidate in 2012, told a local Wisconsin paper on Monday that he still supported a broad reform of the nation’s immigration system. “The longer we delay, the worse these [immigration] problems become,” Ryan told the Janesville Gazette.

“We don’t have the votes right now,” he said, adding that House Republican leaders were “working hard to find where that consensus lies” between what the paper described as “congressional forces on the Right and the Left”. Roll Call found this week during a two-week survey of House Republican members on the issue that the statement of principles unveiled by Speaker John Boehner and other leaders at the beginning of the year appeared to have scant support among the rank-and-file. The blog writes that 19 Republicans said they backed the principles, two said they “possibly” could, 30 said they were opposed, 22 refused to say either way, 25 were undecided and three others had what the blog described as “nuanced responses”. The other 131 didn’t respond to attempts at contacting them.

Ryan has held the official House GOP line on immigration before the caucus had even defined it: last July, about a month after the Senate passed its comprehensive bill on the issue, he told a North Dakota radio station that he thought “most [undocumented immigrants] just want to have a legal status so they can work to provide for their families”, and that the GOP didn’t want to “push people into citizenship”. A spokesperson for his office later told the Washington Times that he had “simply said we don't need a special pathway to citizenship to fix our immigration system."

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