A week after outlining immigration reform standards and principles to GOP lawmakers, Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested it may be too difficult for the House to pass legislation in part because Obama has stepped up his use of executive action as a way to skirt the gridlock in Congress.
“We are going to continue to discuss this issue with our members,” Boehner said. “But I think the president's going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written.”
Boehner added, “It's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
Obama has pledged in recent weeks to move ahead with his agenda even if he cannot win cooperation from Congress, or more specifically, the GOP-led House.
“I've got a pen and a phone,” Obama told members of his cabinet at a recent meeting on his economic agenda.
He reiterated the promise of unilateral action in his State of the Union address earlier this month, telling lawmakers he would use the power of his executive authority to act “with or without Congress.”
Obama has already used executive authority to implement new environmental regulations and to loosen deportation laws.
Democrats are now pressuring Obama to sign an executive order to make it illegal for federal employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation or if they are transgendered. Such a move would circumvent the House GOP, which has refused to take up legislation that addresses the issue.
Obama’s executive action agenda has angered Republicans and diminished their will to work with the president, lawmakers tell the Washington Examiner.
Boehner said Obama’s decision to travel around the country to promote his executive moves is making Republican lawmakers even more distrustful.
Democratic lawmakers said despite Boehner’s warning, they believe it is still possible to pass immigration reform this year.
“I am not thrown back by Speaker Boehner's statement,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., an author of the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill. “He's in a very difficult position. He is trying to figure out, in my judgment, a way to get this done without his caucus or too many in his caucus rebelling. But I think the leadership of the Republican Party knows that if they don't do immigration reform, they have big problems down the road and even immediately.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Boehner should abandon efforts to win support for immigration reform from the majority of his conference and instead pass bills with the help of House Democrats.
“I haven’t given up on it, I still believe in it,” Durbin said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is the former House Speaker, criticized Boehner's reasoning.
“What we are supposed to do is legislate, and not make up excuses as to why we don’t,” Pelosi said Thursday. “That’s not a reason not to do an immigration reform bill. That’s an excuse not to do it.”