Almost exactly a year ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in no uncertain terms that he would ignore the popular, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. The plan may have been endorsed by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, immigration advocates, leaders from the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks, but the Republican leader said it didn't matter: the Senate bill was dead on arrival. Even if it had the votes to pass, it would never reach the House floor.
But, Boehner said at the time, immigration reform was very much alive. "The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill," the Speaker vowed
. "It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job."
That was 51 weeks ago. And while Boehner probably meant what he said, the House Speaker made a commitment he could not keep. House members "will do our job"? Well, no actually, as is too often the case, the Republican-led chamber will do nothing
... House Speaker John Boehner formally told the president last week that the House will not move on immigration legislation, a White House official said.
No longer willing to watch the GOP-led House do nothing, President Obama intends to move forward
without legislative action.
After more than a year of encouraging Congress to pass a new immigration law, President Obama gave a fiery White House speech on Monday saying the time had come for him to act alone on the issue. "The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it's bad for our economy and it's bad for our future," he said. "If Congress won't do their job, at least we can do ours."
Perhaps most striking was the president chiding the do-nothing House for ridiculous excuses, including using the recent humanitarian crisis as a rationale for inaction.
"Their argument seems to be that because the system is broken, we shouldn't make an effort to fix it," Obama said. "It makes no sense."
For his part, Boehner's spokesperson, Michael Steel, told reporters this afternoon, "Speaker Boehner told the President exactly what he has been telling him: the American people and their elected officials don't trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue."
As talking points go, I find it hard to imagine any adult seriously believing an argument so transparently foolish.
For one thing, Boehner himself already discredited the argument from Boehner's office, admitting publicly
that immigration reform hasn't happened because his own Republican allies are afraid of hard work. For another, Senate Democrats offered House Republicans a deal: immigration reform can take effect in 2017, after Obama has left office. GOP leaders, including the Speaker's office, still refused, making it painfully obvious that their anti-Obama whining isn't the real motivation for their intransigence.
Boehner followed up with a statement
that added, "President Obama won't work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can't and won't fix these problems." Again, this is the sort of thing a politician might say if he's convinced the public is easily fooled.
Obviously Obama will work with Republicans on immigration -- he worked with Senate Republicans to pass a popular, bipartisan bill last year -- if only House members were open to compromise. Just today, the president specifically said, "Maybe it will be after the mid-terms when they're less worried about politics. Maybe it will be next year. Whenever it is, they will find me a willing partner. I have been consistent in saying that I am prepared to work with them even on a bill that I don't consider perfect."
As for executive actions, Obama kept trying to explain to House Republicans that he doesn't actually want to go this route. "The only thing I can't do is stand by and do nothing while waiting for them to get their act together," he said.
If Boehner had even produced a bill -- any bill, regardless of legislative prospects, committee markup, etc. -- it would at least demonstrate a seriousness of purpose. But even that has proven too much to ask. House Republicans (a) want to kill the Senate bill, (b) won't bother with an alternative of their own, despite Boehner's promise to the public; and (b) insist that Obama let the problem get worse without any White House efforts whatsoever.
Since Boehner became Speaker in 2011, Americans have seen some sad displays. This is among the most pitiful.
As for what's next, the president said in his remarks this afternoon that his administration is still mapping out its options through executive actions and will move forward on a broader plan over the summer. Watch this space.