Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today told the House Republican caucus there is no “secret conspiracy” to force consideration of amnesty legislation, The Hill reports. He also sought to explain his mocking of House Republican concerns over amnesty.
Boehner, who addressed Republicans after they returned from a two-week recess, had sent mixed signals on immigration during their absence. And the House Republican conference chair, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, had said bills could come to the floor by the August recess.
According to those who attended the meeting, Boehner reiterated his promise that the House would not negotiate on the Senate-passed comprehensive amnesty bill. “He said there’s no secret conspiracy to have comprehensive immigration reform passed,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. “He said that until this president proves that he’s willing to abide by existing law that we’re not going to pass new laws.”
Fleming said Boehner did not rule out on immigration, however. He said the House may work on legislation to force the president to implement immigration laws as Congress intended.
Boehner also reportedly sought to explain comments widely viewed as mocking his own members for their lack of interest in pursuing immigration legislation. He said he was teasing and blamed President Obama for inaction. Boehner said his caucus and their constituents did not trust the president. According to Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., “He was crystal clear. President Obama is the reason we don’t have immigration [reform.]”
“There was no mocking,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference after the meeting. “You all know me. You tease the ones you love, alright? But some people misunderstood what I had to say, and I wanted to make sure members understood that the biggest impediment we have to 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.”
When a reporter asked if the House will vote on an immigration bill by August, Boehner was non-committal. “We know we have a broken immigration system. We’re going to work with our members, have discussions and see if there’s a way forward. But, the president needs to take action himself. He’s got to show the American people and show the Congress he can be trusted to implement the law the way it may be passed.”
The Daily Beast reports that expectations for action are low among Democrats. One senior Democratic staffer with direct knowledge of House negotiations said that Republicans have not finished drafting legislative language for their legalization bill. The staffer said Democratic lawmakers increasingly assume that Obama, not Boehner, will act first. “I think for once the president might show some leadership,” the staffer said. “We’ll see.”
Read more in The Hill.