Congressman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) told fellow Republicans members on Tuesday evening that he will not pursue immigration reform legislation if he is elected Speaker of the House next week.
A spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee chairman said that Ryan does not believe President Barack Obama to be an honest broker on the immigration issue, and would avoid the divisiveness that comes with immigration reform efforts while Obama remains in the White House.
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Ryan "understands that we can't address that issue with a president we can't trust," spokesman Brendan Buck said in an email.
The pledge aims to head off criticism from immigration hardliners in the House Republican caucus such as Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa), who vowed a "major intraparty battle over immigration" if Ryan seeks the speaker’s gavel.
The Wisconsin Republican told a meeting of the GOP conference on Tuesday that he will run for speaker if all of the major House Republican caucuses endorse his bid.
Ryan characterized the move as an effort to unite disparate House Republican factions that have battled over the leadership of outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).
"If the members agree with his requests and share his vision, and if he is a unity candidate—with the endorsement of all the conference’s major caucuses—then he will serve as speaker. He will be all in," Buck said in a statement on Tuesday.
"But if he is not a unifying figure for the conference, then he will not run and will be happy to continue serving as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee," he added.
House Republicans will hold an internal vote on their nominee for House speaker on Oct. 28, Boehner announced on Wednesday. The House will hold a floor vote the following day.
Ryan has drawn fire from conservative pundits such as talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham who say he is "pro-amnesty."