First it was opposition to the “amnesty.” Then came concerns that President Obama would never actually “secure the border.” But now House Republicans’ excuse to kick immigration reform further down the road focus on an unlikely foe: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
The new complaint comes after Boehner criticized his fellow House Republicans and their attitude toward immigration reform at an event with a Rotary group in Middletown, Ohio.
“Here’s the attitude: Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,” Boehner said about his fellow House Republicans.
While Boehner reportedly received laughs from the audience, some Republican House members view the display as new evidence that the Speaker cannot be trusted.
“He’s speaking off the cuff and speaking from his heart but he needs to realize that we are his team, we are his flock,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) told the Washington Examiner. “And he needs to be a good shepherd.”
Speaker Boehner did try to “clarify” his remarks on Tuesday, pivoting back to criticisms of President Barack Obama (which is always popular with House Republicans). “I wanted to make sure the members understood that the biggest impediment we have in moving immigration reform is that the American people don’t trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass.” Boehner then made clear that his intention was not to “mock” members of his own party. “There was no mocking, you all know me,” Boehner said during a news conference in Washington on Tuesday. “You tease the ones you love.”
But not every member of the Republican majority in the House has accepted Boehner’s explanation.
“I think he tried to clarify things and I appreciate him trying to do that,” Rep. Salmon told the Examiner Tuesday. “But more frequently over the last several months the Speaker has made off-the-cuff comments. I think if he wants to keep our devotion and support then he needs to be a lot more disciplined.”
Boehner’s quick pivot back to criticizing President Obama, after being challenged by members of his party, perhaps shows how little he actually wants immigration reform to pass. He does, after all, have the support of a number of outspoken House Republicans on the issue. The fourth ranking House Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), told the Spokane Statesman-Review recently that there is still hope for immigration reform to be voted on in the House by this summer. “I believe there is a path that we get a bill by August,” McMorris Rodgers told the newspaper. “We’re going to have to push that this is legal status, not amnesty.”
Furthermore, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) recently wrote to Boehner, urging him to bring immigration reform to a vote in the House. In the letter, King challenged Republicans who criticize the “amnesty clause” in the House version of the immigration bill already passed by the Senate.
King wrote: “As to the issues of legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants, I fully understand and appreciate the argument that illegal behavior should not be rewarded. The reality though is that we are not going to deport 11 million immigrants.”
There’s also the reality that Speaker Boehner could bring H.R. 15 — the House version of the Senate-passed immigration bill — to a vote whenever he likes. If he did, he would likely have the votes to pass it. While some chalk this up to Boehner’s adherence to the “Hastert Rule,” it’s important to note that he has invoked this rule selectively, breaking it repeatedly when convenient.
As America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group, put it in a recent press release: “No amount of blame shifting can distract from the simple truth that the House could pass immigration reform if Republicans turned their rhetoric into actual bill text and actual floor votes.”
So, as House Republicans continue to shift blame and fight among themselves, the likelihood of immigration reform being passed gets increasingly smaller. In fact, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently released the House Republicans’ spring legislative agenda– and it ignores the immigration bill altogether.
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