Republicans Warn Obama of Trouble on Immigration

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, center, arrives for a news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Top Republicans will meet with President Barack Obama today after warning him that changing U.S. immigration policy without involving Congress would invite “big trouble” and make a future compromise impossible.

Obama invited House Speaker John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican in line to be the next Senate majority leader, to the White House -- along with other leaders of both parties -- to discuss agenda items he wants to see completed before the new Congress takes office in January.

On immigration, acting without Congress would be “inviting big trouble,” Boehner said yesterday, while McConnell equated it to “waving a red flag in front of a bull” a day earlier.

Republicans won more seats in both chambers in the Nov. 4 election and will now have the majority in the House and Senate.

Obama this week 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.

If the president does that, “he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” Boehner told reporters at a news conference yesterday in Washington.

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.

Won’t Wait

Obama said Nov. 5 that Republicans who might be “angered or frustrated” are also “deeply opposed to immigration reform in any form.”

“What I’m not going to do is just wait,” the president said.

In remarks to reporters before a Cabinet meeting today at the White House, Obama said he’d listen to congressional leaders on “areas where we think it’s possible to work together,” such as jobs, manufacturing, trade and “modest investments” in early childhood education.

“My attitude has been and will continue to be that good ideas don’t necessarily come from just one party,” Obama said before the luncheon with congressional leaders.

There are issues that are ripe for “bipartisan cooperation, as long as we set politics aside for a moment and focus on the people who actually sent us here,” he said.

Border Security

The Democratic-led 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 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 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 bills. Boehner noted repeal 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.

Keystone Pipeline

Boehner yesterday 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 yesterday 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’ majority control of Congress will let them set the legislative agenda for the final two years of Obama’s second term. It 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.

Legislative Agenda

Boehner and McConnell wrote an opinion article on the Wall Street Journal’s website Nov. 5 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.

Among the items to be discussed at today’s White House luncheon meeting are confirmation of presidential nominations, $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 this week 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.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.