After a White House meeting last week, Republicans described Speaker John Boehner aggressively confronting President Obama over the president’s planned executive amnesty, prompting an extended period of a defensive Obama attempting to justify his actions.
But a key moment of the meeting, left out from those accounts, was unveiled by Boehner himself in an exuberant moment of boasting in a closed-door meeting with GOP colleagues minutes ago.
Boehner recalled telling Obama, “Mr. President, just give us one more chance to do this the right way. If we can’t, then do what you gotta do.”
The sentiment, recalled by several lawmakers exiting the meeting, angered conservatives not only because the Ohio Republican paired an immigration effort to Obama’s plan to brazenly flout his constitutional role, but also because he seemed to have let him off the hook in the event he later went ahead with the plan.
“To me it’s unacceptable. We believe what [Obama] is doing is unconstitutional,” said one fuming lawmaker leaving the session.
But there is some question whether Boehner actually said those words in the White House on Friday.
A Democrat who was in the meeting said he did not recall Boehner expressing that sentiment. Other sources described him asking for another shot to pass immigration bills, but not the final part of the sentence — “do what you gotta do.”
Also, the sentence cut directly against the bulk of what Boehner told lawmakers on the issue earlier in the meeting, in which he vowed to wage war against Obama if he goes forward.
“The president is playing with fire here, and when you play with fire, you get burned. I told the president last week directly: if you proceed with executive amnesty, not only can you forget about getting immigration reform enacted during your presidency, you can also expect it to jeopardize other issues as well. We don’t know when exactly he’ll do it or how exactly he’ll do it. But if he proceeds, we are going to fight it,” Boehner said earlier in the meeting, according to a source in the room.
Still – even Boehner claiming to have said it to Obama is bound to raise questions about how he is handling the issue on the right.
The battle over whether to address the issue in a must-pass spending bill is heating up, with 54 conservative lawmakers signing a letter urging for a preemptive strike on executive amnesty.
Notably, however, a report from Fox News timed the release of the action as soon as next week, which could render the whole intra-GOP debate moot and result in Republicans passing a simple short-term bridge bill to wait for GOP reinforcements in the Senate.
Boehner told Republicans at the meeting that no decisions had been made about the spending bill. He also said Congress would be departing Dec. 11.
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