House Speaker John Boehner addressed the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by House conservatives mobilizing against his reelection as Speaker on Monday, telling Fox News host Megyn Kelly that he’s “confident” he’ll win reelection next year.
“Some are suggesting you are not going to be the Speaker, even if the GOP retains control [of the House] in 2014,” Kelly told Boehner in an interview on her program The Kelly File on Monday evening.
“I’ve heard those rumors before,” Boehner responded, seemingly referring to an unsuccessful coup attempt at the beginning of this Congress.
“What say you?” Kelly followed up.
“Listen, my members know me and they know me pretty well,” Boehner replied. “We don’t agree–we don’t disagree on all the big issues, nor frankly on big strategy. We’ve had disagreements over tactical issues. But I’ve got a good relationship with my members and I feel confident that I’ll earn their support come the end of the year.”
Boehner’s comments came amid a fairly contentious live interview in which Kelly repeatedly pressed Boehner on several top conservative priorities.
In recent weeks, several House conservatives who previously supported Boehner’s election as Speaker and re-election have publicly questioned his continued leadership. Boehner also recently purchased a luxury condo in Marco Island, Florida, setting off a new round of speculation about whether he will retire.
Boehner had appeared on Kelly’s program to discuss how the House of Representatives is moving toward holding IRS Tea Party targeting scandal figurehead Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, while pushing Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice to move on criminal charges against her.
“When this story first broke, I asked the question or someone asked me the question: ‘Well, who should be fired?'” Boehner said about the IRS scandal. “Well, I don’t care who’s going to be fired. I care who’s going to jail. The fact is the IRS is–there are specific laws that protect taxpayers and force the IRS to comply with the law. Somebody at the IRS violated the law.”
“Whether it’s Lois Lerner or not, we’ll find out. But the Ways and Means Committee and the Government Reform and Oversight Committee–both committees have jurisdiction over this IRS investigation,” he continued. “They’ve been both working together. And as I understand it, the Ways and Means Committee will go into executive session on Wednesday where they will go over this letter they have put together outlying names of taxpayers who have been harmed and aggrieved and lay out a case for how Ms. Lerner misled the committee.”
After a few more questions about the IRS, Kelly turned the heat up on Boehner over his role as Speaker of the House–turning the originally-friendly interview into a slightly hostile back and forth.
“A couple years ago, you guys went after Eric Holder,” Kelly stated. “He was held in contempt because he wasn’t producing information–all of it–in connection with Fast and Furious, this gunrunning thing. That’s still held up in the courts.”
“It’s still in the courts,” Boehner replied.
“When you refer these things out to the courts or you refer them out to the DOJ, what kind of confidence can the American people have that there’s going to be any end to it? That there’s going to be a resolution?” Kelly asked.
Boehner replied by saying he’s “a big believer in transparency and accountability.”
“The American people have a right to know what happened with regard to Fast and Furious, what happened at the IRS, what happened at Benghazi,” Boehner said. “And there’s no one more serious about getting to the bottom of this than I am.”
Kelly cut back at Boehner on Benghazi. “OK, but your detractors say–you mentioned Benghazi–if you’re so serious about getting to the bottom of that, why not appoint a select committee?” Kelly asked, referencing the House Resolution from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) that would install a special investigative body to get to the bottom of Benghazi. Wolf’s resolution has 190 co-sponsors, more than 80 percent of Boehner’s House GOP conference.
“You’ve got 190 members in the House who are in favor of a select committee, and yet you are overruling or ignoring the will of your own majority?” Kelly asked.
Boehner repeated an answer he’s given before: “There are four committees that are investigating Benghazi,” he said. “Four Americans were killed. Their families have a right to know what happened. And there’s nobody–nobody–more determined to get to the truth than I am. These committees all have subpoena power. At this point in time, I see no reason to break up all the work that’s been done and to take months and months and months to create some select committee.”
“But your own people want it–you’ve got 190 House Republicans who have said they need it?” Kelly followed up.
“I understand that,” Boehner responded. “At some point, that may–that may–be required. At this point, it is not.”
Kelly then shifted to the hot button topic of immigration, asking Boehner about comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that crossing the border illegally is an “act of love.”
Boehner said he “understand[s] what Jeb was saying.”
“To most people around the world, the United States is Utopia, and frankly most people in the world want to come here,” Boehner said. “So I understand what Jeb was saying. But we’re also a nation of laws so for those who are here without documents, they’re going to have to face the law at some point.”
Kelly asked if Boehner thought Bush’s comment would be “a deal-breaker for Jeb Bush for president.”
“I do not,” Boehner replied, explaining how hard he has worked to reach a major immigration deal. “I do not. The American people want us to deal with immigration reform. It’s become a political football over the last 15 years. I’ve tried to get the House to move on this now for the last 15 or 16 months.”
“But 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. Then how can we trust the president to actually obey the law and enforce the law that we would write?'” he explained.
Boehner declined to say specify that he would use the House’s oversight power to hold the president accountable on immigration other than that Obama doing so would blow up the chances at Congress passing an amnesty bill.
“He’s under more pressure now to do more by executive order on the subject of illegal immigration, to defer more deportations, to use his pen and his phone as he says, to get around Congress that he thinks is standing in the way of reform,” he stated.
“If he does that, if he pursue that, what–if anything–do you do?” Kelly asked.
“That will make it almost impossible to ever do immigration reform, because he will spoil the well to a point where no one will trust him by giving him a new law that he won’t implement the way that Congress intended,” Boehner responded.
Kelly asked him next about a recent feud the Speaker had with Matt Drudge, the proprietor of the wildly successful Drudge Report news aggregation website this weekend. Drudge had prominently linked a story by Associated Press reporter David Espo showing the House had quietly expanded Obamacare coverage in a “doc fix” bill that was passed by voice vote before most members of Congress knew what was happening.
“Did you give on something you shouldn’t have given on?” Kelly asked Boehner.
Boehner said the change to the health care law was the same as other instances where Republicans had been able to force Democrats to change parts of the law, such as one prominent instance where Republicans forced the repeal of a tax reporting requirement for small businesses.
But the AP story noted that this change, which passed the House without any significant public debate, expanded Obamacare coverage and was pushed by major business interests including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Our goal all the way through this is to protect the American people from the awful effects of this law and continue to work to try to repeal it,” Boehner replied. “And so over the last three years, there’s probably been eight or nine changes to Obamacare that the president has actually signed into law, this being one of them. What this says is if you’re a small employer and you have a high deductible and high co-pay plan–there are caps in Obamacare that would get rid of all these plans–what this did was take the cap away so that small employers can keep their plans and keep their health savings accounts.”
“I know you think it’s good,” Kelly interjected. “But the question is whether you broke the blockade against standing firm against any change.”
“There have already been eight or nine changes over the last three years,” Boehner responded.