When Paul Ryan became the Republican Speaker of the House a few weeks ago, the world wondered if the GOP might start to govern, or remain the “ Party Of No .” The Paris attacks have offered a first test as to what Mr. Ryan’s leadership can look like. On Tuesday, Speaker Ryan announced that his colleagues are responding to the Paris attacks by proposing a “pause” to the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The White House had set a goal for a token number of refugees to be resettled from Syria, 10,000 of the 4 million people fleeing an ongoing civil war.

“We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” Mr. Ryan said at a morning news conference on Tuesday, according to video from CNN.

The announcement comes on the heels of a NIMBY movement by Republican governors over the weekend, in which they pledging non-cooperation with the federal government attempts to resettle refugees in their states. Some have even claimed that they will “stop” the government from resettling refugees, though states have no known legal tool to do so.



Ryan explained that he and his colleagues fear that the refugee process will be used by ISIS to get its members legal status and launch attacks on the U.S.

“It’s important that we have a refugee system in place. We respect that,” Speaker Ryan said, according to NBC , adding that the ‘pause’ could be temporary. “This is a moment that it’s better to be safe than to be sorry so we think the prudent responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”

Can Mr. Ryan forge a bill that might improve security screening, or will his attempts to “verify” turn into a crusade to vilify Arabs? He has said that he wants his party to be one of “proposition,” not merely “opposition” to the White House.

Ryan’s critics may see the new immigration taskforce, formed entirely by Republicans, as an attempt at nativist or anti-Arab pandering. But Ryan does have a chance for a constructive response to an emerging political reality. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will lead the taskforce, which is expected to propose legislation in a matter of days, to avoid crowding the Dec. 11 budget deadline.

“This is not about politics, this is about national security,” Ryan said on Tuesday.

Will Ryan’s national security politics construct a pathway for refugees that satisfies concerns about terrorism? Or will the legislation be a long-winded opposition cry of “no?”