April 25th, 2014
08:55 AM ET
4 months ago

Boehner public mocking of colleagues on immigration similar to what he's done in private

(CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner is mocking fellow House Republicans for saying that it's too hard to tackle the controversial issue of immigration reform.

Speaking Thursday at a meeting of the Middletown Rotary Club in his home congressional district in southwestern Ohio, an animated Boehner, talking about his colleagues on Capitol Hill, said "here's the attitude: 'Ohhhh, don't make me do this. Ohhhh, this is too hard.'"

According to CNN affiliate WKRC and other local reports, the speaker went on to say that "We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to," adding that "They'll take the path of least resistance."

Reminding the audience that he's been working for more than a year to convince fellow House Republicans to try and hammer out something on immigration reform, adding that "I've had every brick and bat and arrow shot at me over this issue just because I wanted to deal with it. I didn't say it was going to be easy."

Public teasing similar to private ribbing

But a senior House Republican told CNN the speaker's ribbing of his own members wasn't new and is something House GOP members are used to hearing.

"If I had a nickel for every time John called me a name I'd be a millionaire," Rep Peter King told CNN Friday in a phone interview. King said Boehner has used a mocking tone in closed door meetings to give members a hard time, but not just on immigration, and said "that's just John."

"He'll kid you about everything - your haircut, a tie, guys changing their vote from one month to the next."

Asked about possible blowback from conservatives who are offended the speaker is making fun of his own members, King said, "these guys should just lighten up and toughen up."

King recalled a recent incident when he was called in to meet with Boehner after he criticized the leadership about not moving fast enough on legislation providing aid to communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy. When Boehner walked in and saw King seated at the table in his office he greeted him by saying, "hello shithead."

The New York Republican, whose district is home to large immigrant community, sent Boehner a letter on Wednesday to say he wanted to support the speaker's efforts to move forward with immigration reform now.

A CNN congressional reporter and producer have heard Boehner use the same mocking tone towards fellow House Republicans that they have to take tough votes on such issues as immigration, in private conversations.

Responding to reports of the speaker's comments, Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said "As the speaker often says to his colleagues, 'You only tease the ones you love.'"

The Democratic-controlled Senate approved a bipartisan immigration bill last year that included an eventual path toward citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. But the Senate bill stalled in the GOP-led House, where party leaders said they preferred to address the matter incrementally rather than in one comprehensive measure. Many conservatives oppose any legislation that includes a pathway towards citizenship, which they consider "amnesty."

Even though Boehner continues to say in public and private meetings that he wants to address immigration reform, he signaled that any action on immigration is unlikely this year because he said Republicans in the chamber don't trust President Barack Obama on the issue.

Boehner's public comments in Ohio reflect the dynamic that's been going on behind the scenes for months. The speaker has repeatedly pressed his members that the broken immigration system needs to be fixed. But the rank and file have resisted, saying they don't want to touch the controversial issue in an election year. Part of the speaker's pitch is that GOP members didn't get elected to just do the easy things.

Due to the backlash inside his conference last year to the massive bill that passed the Senate passed, Boehner pledged the House would only take up the issue in piecemeal bills, and focus first on enforcement. But again, after the Speaker laid out specifics for this strategy at the annual retreat in January, many Republican members appealed to Boehner to hold off because they were worried about political blow-back and potential primary challenges.

King noted that there is more discussion and movement inside the conference on the issue than there was a year ago. He argues that the politics now favor Republicans because they are likely to get Democrats to agree to stricter border controls as part of a deal to address legal status for the 11 million undocumented in the US now.

But he's not confident any vote will actually happen on the House floor. "I don't know. I think it would be difficult. Rome wasn't built in a day," the New York Republican told CNN.

Conservative reaction

Heritage Action, the political wing of the Heritage Foundation, one of oldest and most influential conservative think tanks, was critical of the speaker's comments.

"The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. Unfortunately, John Boehner is more interested in advancing the agenda of high-powered DC special interests than inspiring Americans with a policy vision that allows freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society to flourish," said Heritage Action chief executive officer Michael A. Needham, in a statement.

Boehner has become increasingly outspoken in public in recent months against some of the influential DC-based conservative groups, such as Heritage Action, which have strong ties to the tea party movement and other grassroots activists.

Key races to watch in 2014

With Congress on recess, Boehner is back in his district this week, ahead of the May 6 Ohio primary, when he once again faces multiple party challengers, including one with support from tea party activists. But the Speaker is expected to easily win re-nomination. In the general election, Boehner was unopposed in 2012, and has grabbed at least 61% of the vote in each of his 12 congressional election victories.

CNN Congressional Reporter Lisa Desjardins, and CNN's  Gabe LaMonica and Chloe Sommers contributed to this report


Filed under: 2014 • House • House of Representatives • House Republicans • Immigration • John Boehner
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Independent to Avoid Ignorance

    A lot of Republican bashing........Let's not forget that Obama had the House and Senate and could pass whatever he wanted for his 1st 2 years!!! and all we got was the lousy ACA.....

    April 25, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  2. TxGran

    Boehner says "We get elected to make choices; we get elected to solve problems." Then beginning in 2008 to current...nothing has been accomplished to help the American people. The main one being JOBS, JOBS, JOBS needed. It's NO, NO, NO to EVERYTHING. They forget the economy went south on THEIR watch in 2007. This has been the most hateful, mean-spirited, uncaring bunch of Repubs I have ever witnessed.

    April 25, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  3. Squeezebox

    Until we have control of our borders, any talk of immigration reform is just hot air. We need to be fair to everyone in the world, not just the people in Mexico. Right now it's not fair that someone in Bangladesh has to play by the rules and someone in Mexico can just sneak across the border and make his own rules.

    April 25, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  4. Edwin

    Funny, Gunderson – you use humor to make falsehoods seem truer. In the last twenty years the anti-Constitutional moves have all been from conservative groups not liberal. The U.S. tax rate is lower than in the other civilized countries, not higher. And the reason businesses hire undocumented workers is because unions are gone, so business owners can do whatever they want with workers.

    But your humor style was still fun.

    April 25, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  5. Old_Hippie

    They are here and they are doing the jobs that legal americans find beneath them. They should be allowed to stay as long as they are gainfully employed. They should be required to register for work visas and must pay income taxes. A path to citizenship should be made available to their children as they had no choice in their parents decision to enter this country illegally.

    April 25, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  6. Rosslaw

    I've heard rumors that Nancy Pelosi performed both a spinal transplant so that the Orange One might begin to resemble a man, let alone a Speaker of the House. Sounds like the tranplant might have been a success.

    April 25, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  7. justaguy

    Seriously, why can't our politicians act like adults? Does he realize that it is part of the normal world of politics to have a difference in opinion? Act like a leader Mr. Boehner. Seriously, who keeps voting for this guy?

    April 25, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. Sid AIrfoil

    Boehner shouldn't be complaining. Republicans don't want to tackle immigration because they don't have to in order to get reelected. They have perfected the art of appearing effective simply by opposing everything Obama and the Democrats propose. They have worked their base into such an anti-Obama frenzy that doing nothing is what get's them votes. And they have redistricted the country to an extent that makes many Republicans immune to elections anyway. Since Boehner, both actively and passively, helped create this monster he no longer has a right to complain. Like Dr. Frankenstein his monster is out of control. Hopefully, also like Dr. Frankenstein, Boehner will dedicate the rest of his life to destroying what he created. But I doubt it.

    Sid

    April 25, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Tom

    Now is the time to come to the aid of our country. Get rid of the GOP stiffs (i..e., Tea Party).

    April 25, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. CrashMan

    Congress just doesn't want to do their jobs any more. I can't believe I'm saying this, but - Nice job Boehner, for calling them out on it.

    April 25, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  11. Kiefer'sNewAssistant

    What I saw in that footage is a man who has finally cracked under all the pressure. It was beyond immature..having said that, I laughed so hard, coffee shot out of my nose!

    We need a new group of grown-ups in office. (I feel there is no real solution to illegal immigration in sight but that has been the truth since the 1930's).

    April 25, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. America Suckered Again

    TxGran
    Boehner says "We get elected to make choices; we get elected to solve problems." Then beginning in 2008 to current...nothing has been accomplished to help the American people.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________
    The Republicans have had the majority in the House only since January 2011. Between 2009 and 2011 the Democrats had everything they wanted to pass but what did they do? They spent big paying back their special interests with the failed $900 billion "stimulus" spending bill and by slick parliamentary maneuvering passed Obamacare, the failed attempt at health care reform. Since 2011, the Republicans have done en excellent job doing what they can to shut down the Washington Debt Machine. I am proud of their continuing progress with this.

    April 25, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. Serge Storms

    Before the US government became completely dysfunctional, politicians used to know how to talk, negotiate, then come to some compromise in the middle. Now we've got pouty rich kids shouting at each other. While we stagnate, the rest of the world passes us by.

    April 25, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. rs

    I would not have Boehner's job for diamonds. He has fools to wrangle and seriously radicalized fools too interested in "making statements" and blocking the workings of government to actually do work.

    He will, unfortunately go down in history as the least effective Speaker of the House presiding over the least effective Congress- ever. The GOP should be worried.

    April 25, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. Mary Ellen

    I have been a stanch, voting Republican for 50 years but if the Republicans can't put together a plan among themselves to handle immigration (and several other issues) I will be leaving the party to join Independents. I have been amazed at the inability of the GOP House members to coalesce around some goals that represent the FACTS of today's culture – immigration being one issue. The immigrants ARE here and WILL BE HERE 10, 20 years from now and we will still be spending our time, energy and intellect beating this dead horse into a pulp!

    April 25, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. Fair is Fair

    Old_Hippie

    They are here and they are doing the jobs that legal americans find beneath them.
    -------
    And just who are going to do those jobs once they feel they're beneath THEM? That's a old, tired line whose time has come. Go after those who employ the illegals and hit them with massive fines. FORCE them to make these jobs more palatable to people who find them "beneath them". If that costs you an extra 20 cents per pound for tomatoes (or whatever), itl be a LOT cheaper in the long run. It's these so-called "lowly jobs" that's incentivizing them to come here.

    April 25, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. Silence DoGood

    OK, the GOP doesn't just do nothing. They mock as well. I stand corrected.

    April 25, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. rs

    Squeezebox

    Until we have control of our borders, any talk of immigration reform is just hot air. We need to be fair to everyone in the world, not just the people in Mexico. Right now it's not fair that someone in Bangladesh has to play by the rules and someone in Mexico can just sneak across the border and make his own rules.
    _________________________
    Nice words. What do they mean? Walls, guard towers? Who is going to build that and who is going to pay for it? The GOP pulled the plug on revenues by letting their rich friends not pay taxes.

    April 25, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. frank

    Boehner wants his GOP colleagues to do their jobs. What a surprise! They don't trust the President on the issue? These are people with no plan. There is already a bill that could be voted on tomorrow, or revised in conference committee. Lazy conservative non-working GOP. And as for the first two years of the President's term, the ACA has been and will continue to be a great success. With Congress, one major initiative at a time is the story of its history. Only a fool does not understand that.

    April 25, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. smith1

    everything seems to be to hard for the republican party. They would rather praise some wacky rancher then deal with the immigration issue. And once again they would be on the wrong side of history. The rancher turned out to be a racist and the immigration issue will turn out to haunt them in future elections. They have no leader and are floundering around trying to be relevant. Vote them all out and let's start over with people willing to govern.

    April 25, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  21. IndFred

    It may well be that Obama had both the house and the senate his first two years, when he got Obamacare passed. The Democrats are subject to infighting to. That doesn't make it right for anyone to shut down the government when one does not get their way. Republican's are just a more epic failure than the democrats at the moment.

    April 25, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. tinykhan

    "The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. Unfortunately, John Boehner is more interested in advancing the agenda of high-powered DC special interests than inspiring Americans with a policy vision that allows freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society to flourish," said Heritage Action chief executive officer Michael A. Needham. Lol...said the CEO of a high-powered DC special interest group....what gall these people have.

    April 25, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  23. SteveS

    Boehner had to be frustrated.
    He cannot for love or money, get the GOP-dominated House to cooperate with him on almost anything?

    Perhaps a cattle prod might work..................................................................................

    April 25, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  24. TONE

    Wyatt

    Immigration reform will not save Boehner's job. This next election will be about removing all the RINO's. We don't need Boehner to win the congress anymore than we need McConnel in the Senate to win it. It is Tea Time and I don't think they even realize it.

    I love it Wyatt the tea time thing just keep taking Rinos out, and put up tea extremist against the Dems I really really really love this, the civil war.

    April 25, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. Austin

    If you think supposed Democratic "control" of the House and Senate for those two years meant Obama could pass whatever legislation he wanted, you obviously either didn't live in America or weren't paying attention.

    April 25, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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