House Speaker John Boehner sternly warned President Obama against issuing an executive amnesty even as he vowed to move forward on major immigration legislation if the president backed down.
“If he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress. It’s as simple as that,” Boehner told reporters at his first press conference since the election Tuesday.
In the absence of executive action, Boehner said he will push to move forward in the House on the issue.
“I want to talk to our members about how to move forward, but I’ve made my position very clear. It is time for the Congress of the United States to deal with a very difficult issue in our society. This immigration issue has become a political football over the last 10 years or more. It’s just time to deal with it,” Boehner said.
The Ohio Republican also outlined an agenda that included moving on various economic bills and repealing Obamacare, both as a whole and in pieces.
Boehner said he’s “sure” the House will at some point move to repeal the full law. “Whether that can pass the Senate, I don’t know. But I know in the House it’ll pass,” he said. In the meantime, Republicans will also target specific portions of the law including the medical device tax, individual mandate and others.
Boehner’s sharp rhetoric on immigration was notable. He warned Obama would “poison the well” with executive amnesty, that the president was inviting “big trouble,” and said “If you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”
But his insistence on moving forward on immigration legislation was also surprising in some respects, given that Republicans across the ticket had campaigned on stopping amnesty and working to address tens of thousands of illegal alien children streaming across the border.
As an example of the contrast between Boehner’s remarks today and the campaign, immigration was not mentioned in a five-point plan the Speaker put out during the height of the campaign, and neither did a joint op-ed he wrote with soon-to-be Majority Leader Mitch McConnell touch the issue.
Boehner said only the border crisis kept the GOP from tackling immigration earlier this year.
“What held us back last year was a flood of kids coming to the border because of the actions of the president that had already taken place. And I’ll tell you what, the American people from the right to the left started to look at this issue in a very different way,” he said.
As for the 18 months before the border crisis dominated news over the summer, Boehner said, “I could regale you with all of my challenges trying to get members on both sides of the aisle to deal with this. They were numerous. Hope springs eternal.”