House Speaker Paul Ryan and party chairs in politically important primary states are blasting Donald Trump’s proposal to seal the U.S. border to Muslims as anti-American.
“This is not conservatism,” Ryan said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. The Wisconsin Republican said he usually doesn’t venture into the Republican presidential sweepstakes but felt compelled to do so because of Trump’s remarks, which prompted sharp condemnation Monday from several of his rivals.
“I’m not concerned about lasting damage to the party, I’m concerned about standing up for our country’s principles,” Ryan said. “These are first principles and our party is dedicated to these first principles. And that’s why I think it’s incumbent upon leaders of our party, like myself, to stand up and defend what conservatism is and what the Republican Party stands for.”
What Trump proposed, he said, “is not what this party stands for. More importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”
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Ryan’s comments came as party chairs in South Carolina and New Hampshire denounced Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.
New Hampshire Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn, who has been a frequent critic of Trump, called the proposal “anti-Republican,” along with unconstitutional and un-American. noting that “there should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion.”
Establishment Republicans have grown increasingly worried that Trump could cost them the White House and congressional seats, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham urged his party to tell Trump to “go to hell.” Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., took to the House floor on Tuesday to call for Trump to drop out of the race: "We must always insist on a security test. But we must never require a religious test," he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been assiduously courting Trump supporters and has proposed a ban on refugees from countries where Islamic militants hold territory, said he disagreed with Trump’s proposal but refused to criticize the candidate.
“I recognize that a great many folks in the media would prefer that anyone running for president engage ... as an ongoing theater critic, who criticizes the proposals of others,” the Texas Republican said, adding “the right solution, I believe, is the legislation I’ve introduced.”
At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Trump’s comments disqualifies him from serving as president and called on his fellow Republicans to declare that they would not vote for him if he is the nominee.
“I think what I would say is those comments don't mean that much if they're going to go ahead and vote for him,” Earnest said of Republican comments. “So I think what we need to see is a definitive statement from every -- every candidate for the presidency about whether or not Mr. Trump is somebody that they could vote for.”
Earnest described Trump’s comments as “disqualifying,” “toxic,” “bluster,” “grotesque,” “offensive” and counter to the Constitution. He even went so far as to criticism his appearance.
“The Trump campaign, for months now, has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lies to even the fake hair, the whole carnival barker routine that we've seen for some time now,” he said.
For his part, Trump, who has led the Republican presidential primary polls for months, doubled down on his remarks during morning television appearances, telling MSNBC his approach was “common sense.
“We have to get our hands around a very serious problem,” he told Morning Joe.
And some Republicans suggested Trump’s proposal -- which came a day after President Barack Obama urged Americans not to scapegoat Muslims -- will only increase his popularity with voters jittery about the threat of terrorism in the wake of attacks in Paris and California.
Trump told MSNBC he’s asking for a “temporary” ban until the U.S. is able to “get our hands around this situation.” Host Willie Geist noted that religion doesn’t appear on passports, but Trump suggested customs agents would inquire about travelers’ religion.
“They would say are you Muslim?,” Trump said. And if they said, yes, they’d not be allowed in the country, he said.
Immigration experts told the Washington Post that Trump’s proposal is “ridiculous” and “unconstitutional.”
Anita Kumar contributed to this report.