House Speaker Paul Ryan, at a private dinner earlier this year, said he thought only “one member” wanted to build a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, Breitbart News has learned from multiple sources with direct knowledge of the comments, including former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO).
The dinner, sources said, took place on the eve of the House’s passage of two relatively minor immigration bills at the end of June: Kate’s Law and sanctuary city reforms. The far wider reaching Davis-Oliver Act was tabled at the same time.
“Ryan told a group of Republicans he met with … that only one person wants a wall,” Tancredo told Breitbart News shortly after the dinner.
Tancredo took issue with the Speaker’s characterization of support for the wall within the House GOP. “Of course he means only one person in his entourage and of the leadership,” he told Breitbart News. “I know several people in Congress who want a wall and I know that there are millions of Americans who want a wall.”
“You have to understand the level of fear that exists in the Republican establishment about this issue,” Tancredo told Breitbart News, seeking to explain the pressures that Republican members of Congress face when addressing immigration.
“The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want a wall … the pressure is greater from the Chamber of Commerce than it is from the members,” Tancredo, who for years in the House fought a mostly fruitless battle to get Congress to combat the flood of illegal immigration, added. “That’s the basic problem. It was then. It is now.”
A current House GOP member confirmed that Ryan made a remark similar to the one Tancredo referenced, but stressed that the Speaker was attempting to summarize the disparate voices in the House GOP caucus, telling Breitbart News:
All this narrative serves to inform is that Ryan’s is making a point of listening to Members and that Members mostly are trying to listen to each other. I believe it is true that support for the wall is not as strong as it needs to be among House Republicans.
That member added an assessment of the difficulties facing the effort to fund the wall. According to this member who supports a border wall, one of the biggest problems is Republicans’ lack of knowledge of the history of the immigration issue and the failures to secure the border in the past. The House member told Breitbart News:
Another thing I have noticed is that Members’ knowledge and opinions on immigration seem to only be traceable back to their arrival in Congress. Not many brought much experience or knowledge on the topic with them. 64% swore in January 2011 or later. They only know that which was debated in the Obama era. Some are Never Trumpers.
We have work to do.
The office of Speaker Ryan and another House GOP member who Breitbart News was told attended the dinner neither confirmed nor denied that Ryan made the comment about support for the wall.
The southern border wall is President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise and the ability of the Republican-controlled Congress to deliver the authorization and funding will likely define the success or failure of the administration’s immigration agenda. As Tancredo put it to Breitbart News:
Every rally [the president] would whip up the crowd saying we’re going to build a wall. And so you had hopes that in putting so much rhetoric into it during the campaign that it would be hard to avoid it … but so far they have found a way to do so.
So far, no funding has been forthcoming, with any mention of the wall dropped from the Spring’s GOP budget proposals. The White House itself was unclear as to when funding might be expected.
Ryan, interestingly, has been claiming that the House has funded the border wall this year. But, the claims from his office that the House-passed funding measure “fully funds the Trump administration’s request for a wall along the southern border” are misleading at best. What Ryan’s office is referring to in that release, sent out on Tuesday, are the 12 appropriations bills. Those will not become law, because Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to get them passed out of both chambers of Congress and onto the president’s desk. As such, President Trump cut a temporary deal with the Democrats to avert a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling in a joint package.
Tancredo was pessimistic the congressional Republican leadership can be easily brought on board with the immigration agenda of the president and the party’s conservative wing. According to him, Ryan, who was caught on tape after the emergence of the now-infamous Access Hollywood recording of the President saying he was, “not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” would rather lose elections to Democrats than seriously address the issue of illegal aliens.
“Ryan and the Senate Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell] would rather have had Hillary than Donald Trump for that very reason,” Tancredo told Breitbart News. “They failed at stopping him and now they’re going to have to stop him legislatively.”