House Speaker John Boehner’s office on Friday quashed renewed hope that the House is gearing up to pass an immigration reform package by the end of this year.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Boehner told wealthy donors last month that he’s “hellbent” on getting immigration reform done this year. But an aide to the Speaker reiterated that the House won’t act until President Obama “builds trust” with Republicans.
"Nothing has changed,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck wrote in an email to reporters. “As he's said many times, the Speaker believes step-by-step reform is important, but it won't happen until the president builds trust and demonstrates a commitment to the rule of law."
The Speaker’s comments, as reported by the Journal, excited reform backers, who saw it as a sign that GOP leaders are making a serious effort to move a package of reforms that includes legal status for undocumented immigrants. Republican leaders in the House have stalled for months on the issue, after coming under fire from conservative lawmakers who believe that any legalization amounts to “amnesty” and that doing so could hurt their electoral fortunes in this fall’s midterms.
Boehner has long said that passing immigration reform is one of his priorities. He even released a set of principles this January that was embraced by immigration advocacy groups.
But his problem has always been marshalling enough support from Republicans to move it through the House. That’s been a nearly impossible task; the rank and file is deeply split on immigration policy proposals and is determined not to hand President Obama a major legislative victory in an election year.
“Every time the president ignores the law, like the 38 times he has on Obamacare, our members look up and go, ‘Wait a minute, you can’t have immigration reform without strong border security and internal enforcement, and how can we trust the president to actually obey the law and enforce the law that we would write,’” Boehner said in an interview with Fox News last week.
President Obama said Thursday that he acknowledges the “hard politics” for Republicans on immigration, but still blamed House leadership for delaying a vote.
“Right now what’s holding us back is House Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward,” he told reporters during a press conference at the White House.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.