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White House Throws First Elbow at Speaker Ryan

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The White House dinged Speaker Paul D. Ryan Monday for suggesting President Barack Obama “kept poisoning the well” two years ago, when immigration overhaul legislation died in the House.  

Press Secretary Josh Earnest sharply criticized Ryan for the first time during his embryonic speakership, calling it "preposterous" for the Wisconsin Republican to claim Obama "kept poisoning the well" during efforts in 2013 to overhaul the country's immigration system, according to a White House pool report. While appearing on all five Sunday morning talk shows, Ryan said he will not advance immigration legislation while Obama is in office, and blamed the president's past actions for his plans.  

“The president’s proven himself to be untrustworthy on this issue,” Ryan said. “I think if we reach consensus on something like border enforcement, interior security, that’s one thing. But I do not believe we should advance comprehensive immigration legislation with a president whose proven himself untrustworthy on this issue.”  

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On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Ryan said he agreed with his predecessor, John A. Boehner, that failing to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul in 2013 was among his regrets.  

“But unfortunately, the president kept poisoning the well, poisoning the well, to the point it was impossible,” the newly minted speaker said.  

One day later, Earnest called it "particularly ironic" for Ryan to pin blame on Obama for the House not taking up a Senate-passed immigration overhaul bill the White House supported. That's because, per the pool report, Earnest claimed Ryan "was instrumental in putting together the agreement" before "blocking its consideration even though he knew it would have passed."  

Earnest also said of Ryan: “It’s hard for him to make the claim the president hasn’t acted in good faith on immigration when Speaker Ryan actively thwarted a compromise he himself helped to broker.”  

“For him to come back and claim it’s somebody else’s fault,” he said aboard Air Force One, “it’s preposterous.”  

Related: Ryan: Immigration Overhaul Off the Table Under Obama Gutiérrez: Immigration Letter Buries GOP's Chances for 2016 Speaker Ryan's Greatest Hurdle: Congressional Math See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.