Speaker John A. Boehner said Monday that most Republicans want to overhaul the nation's immigration system, but that a lack of trust in President Barack Obama's will to enforce the laws is keeping them from doing so.
The Ohio Republican, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by several San Antonio business groups, acknowledged that there are some in his conference who do not want to take on the issue, but he was measured in speaking about his colleagues' resistance.
"There are some members of our party who just do not want to deal with this. It’s no secret," he said. "I do believe the vast majority of our members do want to deal with this, they want to deal with it openly, honestly and fairly." That characterization contradicts the way Boehner described his members at an event in Ohio last month , when he said they are whiny and do not want to do the hard work of passing an immigration rewrite. On Monday, Boehner instead blamed Obama — namely his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and delays to the Affordable Care Act's implementation — for breaching trust with House Republicans.
"We’re at a point where my colleagues don’t trust that the president will implement the law the way we would see it passed. So I put the ball back in the president’s court. He’s going to have to do something to demonstrate his trustworthiness," Boehner said.
Boehner said he thinks it is important to pass an immigration policy rewrite, but he said it is impossible to do without his colleagues' consent, using a favorite phrase of his: "A leader without followers is just a man taking a walk."
The speaker reiterated that he would like to pass an immigration package in "chunks," likely starting with border enforcement. But he declined to wade further into the policy, noting that, "I don't want to make my job harder than it already is."
Boehner was asked about the politics of immigration, but, to applause from the audience, declined to answer, saying only: "This is not about politics, not about elections. It's about doing the right thing for the American people. It’s about doing the right thing for the country. Period."