The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, mocked Republicans in his caucus for being afraid to engage in a debate over amnesty. His theatrical display is surprising since Boehner had cited his caucus’ views when earlier declaring that immigration legislation was doubtful this year.
Boehner’s remarks came at an appearance in his home district on Thursday before the Middletown Rotary Club. In a whiny, theatrical manner Boehner said, "Here's the attitude. Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard." Boehner continued, "We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to ... They'll take the path of least resistance. I've had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn't say it was going to be easy."
Boehner had acknowledged an interest in “immigration reform” just after the 2012 election but allowed the Senate to complete action on a bill first. Under his direction, five immigration-related bills passed committee last year, including one that increased legal immigration levels. But none of the measures addressed the “hard” issue to which Boehner refers – dealing with the 11+ million illegal aliens.
Last summer, lieutenants like Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., started shopping a so-called Kids Act amnesty with the House Republican caucus but couldn’t get any traction. Then early this year, Boehner released a set of “immigration principles” at a House Republican retreat. They called for, among other things, citizenship for younger illegal aliens and legal status, including work permits, for others.
Reports indicated that as much as 80 percent of the Members who spoke out at the Republican retreat rejected his call for pursuing legislation this year. Many argued against the concept of amnesty but even those willing to support some form said now is the wrong time to pursue legislation because President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce immigration laws.
Boehner quickly backpedaled and announced his caucus believes that immigration legislation is not possible until President Obama could be trusted with enforcement. He had maintained that position until his remarks yesterday, which for the first time revealed his disdain for those in his caucus who oppose his amnesty agenda and Obama’s.
The Washington Post and others in the media are reporting that Boehner has been hypocritical for citing Obama as the impediment to reform when he now blames his own caucus. But these reports ignore the fact that Boehner’s original announcement cited a lack of trust for Obama within his caucus, a distrust that has grown as reports revealed that deportations have dropped under his presidency, not grown to historic highs.
The larger question Boehner now faces is whether his caucus trusts his leadership on the immigration issue in the wake of the mocking incident. Despite pressure from monied donors, business groups and business-funded amnesty front groups, House Republicans have rejected moving any immigration-related legislation this year. Republicans also have spoken out against the GOP leadership plot to include a “Trojan Horse” amnesty – the ENLIST Act – in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The first test may come when the House Armed Services Committee takes up the NDAA next week.