Exactly two years ago yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a specific, public vow on the issue of immigration reform: “It is time for Congress to act…. I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.”
Whether Boehner knew this at the time or not is unclear, but the Speaker’s promise was hollow. The Republican leader first ignored the popular, bipartisan reform bill approved by the Senate and endorsed by business leaders, unions, the faith community, law enforcement, and reform advocates, and he then ignored his own stated commitment. The GOP-led House never even held so much as a hearing about a reform bill.
On the contrary, the only action Boehner was willing to take on immigration was threatening to cut off funding for the Department of Homeland Security – a threat that turned out to be about as serious as his promise that GOP members would “do our job.”
But two years later, the Ohio Republican is saying something slightly different. Boehner was in Dublin late last week, addressing the Independence Day lunch of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland. The Irish Times published this piece with a headline that read, “John Boehner pledge: Immigration reform top of agenda.”
The speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner has told a Dublin audience of his determination to overcome Republican resistance to immigration reform. […]His remarks indicate he may yet move to confront opponents of reform within his own Republican party, which is in the vanguard of resistance to it and has a majority in the House.
Now, I haven’t been able to track down a video of the Speaker’s remarks, so it’s hard to say with confidence exactly what Boehner said, but this report clearly suggests the Republican leader told his audience that he remains supportive of tackling immigration reform.
In other words, Boehner isn’t just misleading American audiences on the issue; he’s begun fibbing to foreign audiences, too.
There is nothing – literally, nothing – to suggest Boehner has any intention of working on immigration reform in this Congress. Despite the public promises he was willing to break, the Speaker has no bill, no plan, and no working group. He’s initiated no conversations. He’s talked about his priorities for this Congress, and immigration reform isn’t on the list.
To be sure, Boehner may like the idea of a reform package being done – he’s openly mocked his own members for their reluctance to do actual work on this – but the Speaker hasn’t demonstrated any leadership whatsoever on the issue. It would have taken some courage to tackle the issue in the last Congress, but Boehner simply wasn’t able to lead effectively. He hardly tried.
If the GOP leader is still telling audiences that immigration reform remains a top priority he intends to get done, then Boehner isn’t being honest – with them or himself.
As for why the Speaker made these comments in Ireland at all, Kerry Eleveld flagged a relevant portion from the Irish Times piece:
Imitating [Taoiseach Enda Kenny], Mr Boehner said he was seated at lunch between the Taoiseach and President Obama. “The Taoiseach says: ‘John, John, John.’ He says: ‘How’s immigration reform coming?’“Mr Boehner replied: “What the hell do you care about immigration reform?”Mr Kenny: “Oh John, John. You don’t realise there are about 50k of my fellow Irishmen came to the US and never quite made it back across the pond. You know their cousins have got to hold up the cell phone at their parents’ funeral so their kids in Chicago or Detroit or wherever can listen to the funeral. John, John this is a serious problem.”
Boehner probably realizes it’s a serious problem. Like so many policy challenges, it’s one the Speaker intends to do nothing about.