President Barack Obama will “poison the well” if he changes U.S. immigration policy without waiting for Congress to act, said House Speaker John Boehner.
“He’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path,” Boehner told reporters at a news conference today in Washington. He spoke a day after Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican in line to be Senate majority leader, said executive action by Obama on immigration would be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull.”
Boehner’s party won at least 245 House of Representatives seats in the Nov. 4 election, giving Republicans their largest majority since World War II. The party gained at least seven Senate seats, more than enough to take control in January.
Obama yesterday repeated a promise to take action by the end of the year to halt deportations for some undocumented immigrants if Congress doesn’t move on rewriting U.S. law.
“What I’m not going to do is just wait,” the president said. He said Republicans who might be “angered or frustrated” are also “deeply opposed to immigration reform in any form.”
Boehner said that if Obama acts on his own, “he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress.”
“When you play with matches, you run the risk of burning yourself,” the speaker said.
The Democratic-run Senate last year voted to boost border security and create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a policy some Republicans call amnesty. The plan, S. 744, stalled in the House, where leaders said they wanted to act on a piecemeal basis though no bills were passed.
Republican Party officials had said changing the immigration system was vital to improving their standing with Latino voters after Obama in 2012 beat Republican Mitt Romney by 44 points among Hispanics.
The speaker also said today that the House will vote next year to repeal Obama’s health-care law, as it has numerous times in the past few years. The Democratic-led Senate didn’t take up the repeal, and Boehner noted it might not pass even a Republican-led Senate, where rules let the minority party block legislation.
Still, Boehner said there is bipartisan support to make more modest changes to the law such as ending a tax on medical devices that helps pay for Obamacare.
“Just because we may not be able to get everything we want doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get what we can,” he said.
Boehner reiterated his desire to win approval of TransCanada Corp.’s keystone XL pipeline and ensure that regulatory policies don’t cripple domestic energy producers.
“The energy boom that’s going on in America is real and I think it provides us with a very big opportunity,” he said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a briefing today that while he’s “not trying to paper over those differences” between Obama and Republicans, both sides need to compare their agendas and “look for areas of common ground.” Republicans’ command of Congress will let them set the legislative agenda for the final two years of Obama’s second term. It also might jeopardize Obama’s efforts to nominate judges and agency leaders, as well as to protect his legacy and signature achievements such as the Affordable Care Act.
Boehner and McConnell wrote an opinion article on the Wall Street Journal’s website yesterday saying they would work to repeal the health-care law and revive measures on jobs and the economy that weren’t approved by the Senate under the Democrats’ control.
The president has invited congressional leaders from both parties to a White House meeting tomorrow, in part to discuss items he wants to finish before the new Congress takes office in January. Among them are $6.2 billion in funds to stem the spread of Ebola and an authorization for using military force against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
McConnell told reporters yesterday that the Senate will use its power over federal spending to reduce government regulation and try to cut back parts of the health-care law. The Senate Banking Committee will consider revisions in the Dodd-Frank law enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, he said.