PoliZette

Paul Ryan: ‘It’s Time for the Wall’

The speaker of the House stuns with show of unambiguous support for Trump's signature campaign issue

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a blunt call Tuesday for the Senate to allocate the funding necessary for a down payment on one of President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises, saying, “It is time for The Wall.”

The House speaker posted a 30-second video on his Twitter account Tuesday asking supporters to retweet the post if they agree that “It is time for The Wall.” In a statement accompanying the video on the speaker’s government website, Communications Director Caleb Smith wrote: “It’s time for The Wall. That’s why the House voted to fully fund the Trump administration’s request to build it.”

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Pointing to the $1.6 billion that Trump requested — and the House approved — to begin construction of the border wall, Smith wrote: “When it comes to securing our border and keeping Americans safe, talk is cheap. These actions show Congress is serious about getting the job done.”

“I had the opportunity to travel down to Texas and to go to the Rio Grande Valley and spend time with our Border Patrol,” Ryan can be heard saying in a voiceover in the video. “When you see what they’re up against, it really gives you even greater respect for what they do. They clearly need more tools and more support to do their jobs effectively. That’s why we’re going to get this done this week.”

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Ryan, who had a border fence constructed around his own property, hasn’t always issued such a strikingly unambiguous message in support of the president’s border wall. The House speaker also has a history of supporting some open-border immigration policies that have garnered the ire of immigration hawks, although he since has tightened his views significantly to push for stricter border security and immigration enforcement measures.

During an interview with Bret Baier of Fox News in mid-November, Ryan said: “I’m in favor of securing the border. And I do believe that you have to have physical barriers on the border.”

He added, “I will defer to the experts on the border as to what is the right way to actually secure the border.”

Back in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on December 4, Ryan waffled on the wall, saying, “Yeah, I think conditions on the ground determine what you need in a particular area. Some areas, you might need a wall. Some areas, you might need double fencing.”

The speaker did add, however, “My own view on this is, whatever kind of device or barrier or policy to secure the border, that’s necessary to secure the border, then do it.”

Back in late March, Ryan warned that Congress may delay the president’s request for border wall funding and push it into 2018, telling “CBS This Morning” host Norah O’Donnell that “the big chunk of money for the wall, really, is … next fiscal year’s appropriations because they literally can’t start construction even this quickly.”

But Ryan did manage to corral enough GOP House members to support of the initial border wall construction down payment, as well as the passage of two key bills: Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. Both bills passed in late June with bipartisan support but appear unlikely to garner the 60 Senate votes necessary to pass.

“With everyone’s eyes on Congress, very few Republicans will be looking to commit career suicide by being weak on immigration and border policy,” Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College, told LifeZette in an email. “Not to mention the fact that Ryan’s speakership is always one @realdonaldtrump tweet away from being under attack.”

Ira Mehlman, the media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told LifeZette that it was “encouraging” to see Ryan “get behind” Trump and say that “it’s time to build the wall.” Although he applauded Ryan’s support for one of the president’s top campaign promises, Mehlman noted that the $1.6 billion in funding Ryan proudly championed wouldn’t be nearly enough to make significant headway in constructing the wall on the southern border.

“The amount that the president has asked for and the amount that is in the House bill — $1.6 billion — is really just a small down payment,” Mehlman said. “It’s nice that the Speaker did get behind it, but it’s going to require an awful lot of follow-up, you know, if it’s just the $1.6 billion dollars. It’s really just going to be symbolic more than anything else.”

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Mehlman pointed to the two immigration bills the House passed that are “collecting dust in the Senate,” as well as the Democratic Party’s allergic reaction to the very thought of constructing a border wall as it rallies behind pro-illegal-immigrant activists.

“They’ll be held accountable by the voters,” said Mehlman. “The public was pretty clear that they wanted some changes on a lot of things. And that’s the job of the people that they sent to Washington — the president and the leadership in Congress. And, you know, the midterm elections are not that far off.”

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].