Column: Ryan hits wall as immigration reform held in political limbo

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., gestures during his news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. The House has voted to continue transportation programs for six years with no significant increase in spending. That’s despite warnings that the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems are falling apart. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Obnoxious feuds, which seem important but amount to nothing more than bitterness and spite, have become the norm in Congress. These feuds, which have turned Congress into a living and breathing political cartoon, have culminated in a Republican political upheaval.

Early this week the Republican controlled House of Representatives voted on a new Speaker of the House. With the passing of the torch from Rep. John Boehner to Rep. Paul Ryan, this signified not only an end to Boehner jokes whenever something doesn’t go right in the House, but should signal a “changing of the guard” for the House. That should be the reason a change of leadership occurs in the first place. but with the emphasis clearly placed on “should.” 

Ryan, an establishment Republican, has stood by, supported and even admired Boehner’s system of conducting business in the House. After initially telling the media that his name would not be put forward, Rep. Ryan only entered the race following a personal plea from John Boehner.

It’s safe to say at least outwardly the Speakership is not something Ryan is excited about. Even more disconcerting, after obtaining a position he didn’t want, Speaker Ryan proclaims that his House will not be working with President Obama on perhaps the most polarizing topic of American politics today: immigration. Such lapses in common sense are better suited to works of fiction and drama. Congress should be a place of political progress, not ego-fueled back-biting.

Similar to Boehner in approach, Ryan’s unwillingness to even consider a possible compromise with the President is nothing less than disheartening. In an interview on CNN’s Face the Nation, Paul quipped, “This president tried to write the law himself,” in reference to Obama’s past Executive Action briefs that attempted to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Speaking further, Ryan said, “Presidents don't write laws. Congress writes laws." 

If this is how our political system was intended to function then frankly no one should want anything to do with it at all, from either side of the aisle. American congressional politics have devolved down to weak Hatfield and McCoy rationales and smug ego affirmations unacceptable from anyone in public service.

When there is a prominent public policy issue at hand, it is the duty of our lawmakers to take charge of the situation and construct productive ways to resolve the issues. In laymen’s terms, politicians must do their job and not shy away from something as pressing as a gaping hole in the United States’ national security system.

The debate over immigration reform has been disgracefully halted by one representative’s over-inflated ego. It’s tragic that today, the American people expect less and less action from Congress, relying instead on the President to take action on the issues Congress cannot even agree to debate, let alone negotiate. 

Moreover, in a day and age where the Republican image and brand is suffering greatly at the hands of our present-day leaders’ incompetence, Republicans face the consequence of not just losing the minority vote, but the vote of its entire base. I can speak for most other right and left-centered people when I say that immigration reform is an immediate concern to our nation’s future.

Though opinions on the ways to solve the problem vary, the American people can agree that this is a debate worth having. The current attempt at progress fueled by self-serving attitudes is counterproductive; this ego-censorship cannot continue.

Republicans still control both Houses of Congress following yet another mid-term sweep, but we’re still left with the same pathetic result: nothing. Quite like the guy who talks a big game at the gym but falls short on the court, Republicans are in the corner now. This is yours to lose. There’s a new leader in the House. It’s time for some humility and actual progress.


Nick Guarna is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at nicholas.guarna@uconn.edu.