Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman who is frequently mentioned in the GOP lineup of possible 2016 presidential candidates, stands apart from many fellow House Republicans in favoring a way out of the shadows for the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. in violation of the law.
He casts sweeping overhaul as a necessity to ensure both economic and national security — a fitting argument for an acolyte of Jack Kemp, the late Republican congressman and 1996 vice presidential candidate who backed an ill-fated effort in 2006 to overhaul the immigration system.
"Paul Ryan says we cannot have a permanent underclass of Americans, that there needs to be a pathway to citizenship," says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has been working relentlessly on immigration legislation. "He is my guiding light. I know I get him in trouble every time I say it."
Senior White House aides often mention the Wisconsin Republican as crucial to the prospects for legislation this year, hoping the Republican with impeccable conservative credentials will sway recalcitrant House members. Ryan also is a reminder of two other powerful forces backing an overhaul of immigration laws — the Catholic Church and business.
Ryan is a practicing Catholic who made a point of attending Mass every Sunday during the jam-packed 2012 campaign; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly favors the first major changes to immigration in 27 years.
Ryan also represents a southeast Wisconsin district in a state that relies on the manufacturers of Waukesha engines, Kohler generators and numerous supply chains. The companies are counting on immigrants to fill future factory jobs.
"The American economy needs immigration reform, certainly the Wisconsin economy does," said Kurt Bauer, the president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state's chamber of commerce.
Ryan made his appeal at last week's closed-door GOP meeting, urging Republicans to seize the moment and opportunity.
He "made some very good points about how immigration is part of our history, it's made us great as a country. The diversity of America is one of its greatest strengths," recalled Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y. "I will heartily agree with that. I think all of us in the conference accept that and believe that, and that's where we recognize that this is a problem that has to be dealt with."
The difficulty for Ryan — and proponents of immigration legislation — is the fracture within the Republican Party. National Republicans are pressing for immigration legislation and consider it vital to helping the party improve its standing with the nation's fastest-growing minority, Hispanics. The Romney-Ryan ticket got just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, a downward trend that GOP leaders fear will undermine the party in future presidential elections.
Ryan says any immigration legislation has to address the question of the 11 million living in the U.S. unlawfully. Improving border security alone is not enough.
"You can't fix the system, in my opinion, this is my personal opinion, without coming up with a viable solution for the undocumented and it's got to be a solution that respects the rule of law, that doesn't grant amnesty, that respects the person who came legally from the beginning by making sure that those who are undocumented go to the back of the line, and I think we can come up with that," he said.
But House Republicans in gerrymandered districts with few Hispanic voters have shown little inclination for addressing a path to citizenship, let alone an urgency to deal with immigration at all. Forces of personalities — Republicans Marco Rubio and John McCain and Democrat Chuck Schumer — helped steer a comprehensive bill to passage in the Senate on a strong, bipartisan vote of 68-32. The House, which has adopted a piecemeal approach, is unlikely to consider any legislation before the August break, a timetable that raises doubts of any immigration legislation passing Congress this year.
Ryan is undeterred. He is working away from the spotlight, staying in contact with the bipartisan "Gang of Seven" House lawmakers trying to craft a bill. He doesn't see himself in a high-profile role like Rubio, arguing it's an approach that doesn't work in the House.
"There are lots of different pockets of parties here in the House. And I've always believed from passing budgets and other big pieces of legislation that listening to members, talking with members, negotiating is the most effective way of getting things over the finish line," he said in a recent interview. "It's kind of more of a workhorse role than a show horse role only because I just find that's the most effective way of getting things through the House."
Ryan is hardly a newcomer to the issue. In 1994, when he worked with Kemp, he wrote a 4,000-word rebuttal to proponents of Proposition 187, the California ballot initiative that denied benefits to immigrants in the country illegally. He backed the immigration overhaul bill crafted by McCain and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that nearly became law in 2007.
In April, he joined Gutierrez at the City Club of Chicago to speak out for changes to the immigration system.
The Budget Committee chairman, whose next job may be head of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, makes his case based on numbers.
"Baby boomers are retiring to the tune of 10,000 people a day for the next 10 years," Ryan said. "We're going to have labor shortages in this country in the next decade. We need to have our immigration system prepared for that. It's going to take time to do that and that's why I think we need to do it now."
He may be "gettin by on Central Time" but St. Louis' own Pokey LeFarge has made the big time out East.
The 30-year-old and his band appeared with David Letterman on Late Night with David Letterman last night to huge applause and an enthusiastic Letterman. Their musical style is known as "American Roots" genre. Letterman joked about going on tour with the band at the end of their performance.
According to his bio, Andrew Heissler aka Pokey LaFarge took an interest in history and literature during his childhood and was greatly influenced by his grandfathers. One was a member of the St. Louis Banjo Club, who gave Pokey his first guitar and tenor banjo. The other, an amateur historian, taught LaFarge about the American Civil War and World War II.
LeFarge met Ryan Koenig and Joey Glynn of the St. Louis band The Rum Drum Ramblers while he was playing on a street in Asheville, North Carolina. Adam Hoskins joined Glynn and Koenig to form the South City Three. As of late 2012 / early 2013, the group were joined by TJ Muller (cornet) and Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet).
As the Keystone XL pipeline remains mired in the national debate over environmental safety and climate change, another company, Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, is hoping to begin construction early next month on a 600-mile-long pipeline that would carry tar sands from Flanagan, Ill., about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, to the company's terminal in Cushing, Okla. From there the company could move it through existing pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries.
The company is seeking an expedited permit review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its Flanagan South pipeline, which would run parallel to another Enbridge route already in place. Unlike the Keystone project, which crosses an international border and requires State Department approval, the proposed pipeline has attracted little public attention - including among property owners living near the planned route.
Enbridge says it wants to be a good neighbor to the communities the pipeline would pass through, and it has been touting the hundreds of short-term construction jobs it would create. The company also scheduled a series of "open houses" for this week in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois in which it invited the public to come discuss and learn about its plans.
A session Tuesday in Marshall, 90 miles east of Kansas City, drew a handful of Sierra Club protesters armed with fliers denouncing what's been called one of the country's costliest oil spills. It also attracted local politicians, concerned landowners and prospective pipefitters looking for work.
Enbridge responded with an array of free products, from tote bags and tape measures to cookies and key rings.
Wayne McReynolds, one of the 55 people who stopped by the open house in Marshall, said he hoped to learn more about the company's plans to prevent construction runoff from flooding valuable farmland. He said he left the event with only vague assurances, not specific answers.
"You never put the soil back in the trench to the same extent it was taken out," said McReynolds, a retired soil and conservation worker. "It can't be done."
Mike Diel of Macon, Mo., said he's had no luck getting Enbridge or the corps to give him specific details about the project, including a precise pipeline map and copies of emergency response plans.
"We're all worried about oil spills and the tar sands getting into the drinking water," Diel said.
"Until I know where the pipeline is going, how am I supposed to know what I'm supposed to be worried about?" he said.
Enbridge spokeswoman Katie Lange said fears about the pipeline's safety are overblown. She described routine aerial patrols of the pipeline and its seven pump stations and round-the-clock computer monitoring in Calgary that "can shut it down from just a touch of a button" if necessary.
"Once the pipeline is in the ground, there's a very rigorous and robust operations and maintenance program," Lange said.
But Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes said those assurances are insufficient, given recent history. A July 2010 rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan dumped an estimated 1 million gallons of the heavier diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River, a 35-mile portion of which remained closed to public access for two years. The U.S. Department of Transportation subsequently fined Enbridge $3.7 million.
More recently, an ExxonMobil pipeline spill in Mayflower, Ark., led to the evacuation of 22 homes and further scrutiny of the long-distance transportation of tar sands oil, a denser substance that is more difficult to clean up.
Lange confirmed that Enbridge is seeking regulatory approval under the Nationwide 12 permit process, which would mean the company wouldn't be obligated to follow more rigorous Clean Water Act requirements such as public notification or lengthy environmental reviews. Those permits are limited to utility projects in which each water crossing disrupts no more than one-half acre of wetlands. The Flanagan South pipeline would cross the Missouri and Mississippi rivers as well as hundreds of smaller tributaries.
"This is a 600-mile project that will clear everything in its path for a 100-foot right of way," Hayes said. "And they're treating it as thousands of separate, little projects."
The Sierra Club lawyer said the Army Corps rejected several Freedom of Information Act requests seeking more project details, citing an exemption for "deliberative process privilege" designed to protect internal decision-making.
TransCanada of Calgary is also seeking Nationwide 12 status for the Keystone XL project, prompting the Sierra Club to file suit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Hayes declined to discuss whether the environmental group also plans a legal challenge to the Flanagan South project.
A spokeswoman in the Army Corps' Kansas City office on Tuesday referred questions about the project's permit status to a regulatory colleague who did not respond.
In western Illinois, local officials eagerly anticipate Enbridge's arrival, said Kim Pierce, executive director of the Macomb Area Economic Development Commission. The company plans to build four pumping stations in the state, including one near Quincy along the Missouri border. In addition to the temporary construction jobs, the region can also expect a purchasing boost at area restaurants, hotels and in equipment sales, she said.
"Come Saturday at quitting time, we can expect a lot of people out, relaxing and purchasing things," she said. "We truly see this as an opportunity. You don't always get that handed to you."
Count Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon among the project's supporters. The two-term Democrat said in March 2012, when Enbridge announced its plans, that the company could add "thousands of jobs" to the state while also providing "a boost to America's energy independence."
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Mariano Rivera was held in the bullpen out in right-center field until Neil Diamond had sung the final words of "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the eighth inning during Tuesday night's All-Star game.
And then the opening notes of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" - his Yankee Stadium theme song but unfamiliar on the road - rang out over the public-address system as the greatest reliever of all-time jogged toward the mound. The record crowd of 45,186 gathered at Citi Field on this humid summer night rose and cheered, knowing this was a moment people will remember much more than the American League's 3-0 victory.
Quiet, reserved and understated during nearly a quarter-century in a sport that took him from Panama to the pantheon of pinstriped pitchers, Rivera was being honored with that rarest of baseball tributes - a solo bow.
As he reached the brown circle in the center of the green diamond, Rivera realized he was the only person on the field.
Sinatra. Springsteen. The Mick - Jagger and Mantle. They all got to stand in the spotlight alone. And now it was Rivera's turn.
He took off his cap, waved it to all sides of the ballpark. He touched his hat to his heart.
His AL All-Star teammates stood by the third-base dugout rail and applauded, just like the fans. So did his NL opponents on the first-base side. With no other players in fair territory, he finally started tossing his warmup pitches to catcher Salvador Perez.
Like Ted Williams at Boston's Fenway Park in 1999 and Cal Ripken Jr. at Seattle's Safeco Field two years later, one man transcended all the rest of the gathered talent.
"You're supposed to know your team is behind you," Rivera said. "I didn't know what to do. Just keep throwing the ball, I guess, because it was so weird."
And then, after a 90-second standing ovation, eight AL position players came on the field. Normalcy resumed. Rivera threw 16 pitches - all cutters - and retired Jean Segura, Allen Craig and Carlos Gomez, sending the side down in order the way he has so many times before.
"He still can pitch for three or four more years. He's the best," Gomez explained. "After I got to the dugout, I say I'm going to be history because I'm the last guy Mariano got out in the All-Star game."
Rivera then walked to the dugout to another standing ovation and was given a hug by Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
"It's kind of surreal for me," Verlander said. "I just wanted to give him the respect and the respect that he deserved, I just happened to be standing out there and I was the first one he came to. That's something that I will never forget."
AL manager Jim Leyland decided to pitch Rivera in the eighth instead of the ninth, worried that if the NL somehow rallied Rivera might not get into the game.
"I just couldn't take any chance," Leyland said. "You know, I'm probably not the most popular manager in baseball. I wanted to make sure I got out of here alive."
Rivera has never allowed an earned run in nine All-Star innings. The only older pitcher to appear in an All-Star game was 47-year-old Satchel Paige 60 years ago, according to STATS. At 43, Rivera was the oldest All-Star since Carlton Fisk in 1991.
Of course, he was selected the All-Star MVP. Never having had a chance for a talk, Mets star David Wright pulled Rivera aside at baseball's red-carpet event before the game.
"Before it was too late, I had enough courage to kind of go grab him and just tell him how much I appreciate his body of work, the way he carries himself, how great of an ambassador he is to this game," Wright said. "Forget about the numbers. Forget about being the greatest closer of all-time. The way he carries himself and the way he goes about his business is special."
After the game, still smiling, sometimes laughing, Rivera spoke in the interview room as his family stood behind him.
"It was tough. It was special," an emotional Rivera said. "Seeing the fans sharing and both teams standing out of the dugout, managers, coaches, players - priceless."
Jose Bautista's fourth-inning sacrifice fly off loser Patrick Corbin stopped a 17-inning scoreless streak for the AL that dated to Adrian Gonzalez's homer off Cliff Lee two years ago in Arizona. J.J. Hardy added an RBI groundout in the fifth, and Jason Kipnis doubled home a run in the eighth off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel.
Rivera and nine other pitchers combined on a three-hitter, with Chris Sale getting the win. Joe Nathan worked the ninth, handing the final ball to Rivera as the AL ended a three-game losing streak and regained home-field advantage in the World Series.
So even when the Mets hosted the All-Star game for the first time in 49 years, the spotlight fell on a rival Yankee.
Hours after the game, a video board at Citi Field reminded people the All-Stars will gather next year at Minnesota's Target Field.
But the great Rivera won't be among them.
"It's been a privilege," Rivera said to the crowd, speaking on the field after the game. "You guys almost made me cry."