April 25th, 2014
08:55 AM ET
7 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. Paulwisc

    kws11, it's a misdemeanor, so they are no more "criminals" than you are for breaking traffic laws.

    Calling them criminals is just the latest rationalization for the fact that most opposition is based on bigotry and nothing more.

    April 25, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. ritmocojo

    What that cowboy hat wearing welfare queen is doing in Nevada is no different than people that are here illegally.

    April 25, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Joe

    I think the answer goes a little deeper... Democrats have made no meaningful long term attempts at improving enforcement of border security and the Republicans have seen how they have enslaved generations of blacks at the polls because there was a Democratic President in office when civil rights laws were passed, despite the fact that many Republicans had a hand in the civil rights legislation/movement. All seems to be forgotten and what mattered to the minority Black leadership is what party was the sitting President at the time of legislation passing. History could repeat itself with the Latino community under Obama. Immigration laws will pass when a Republican is holding office or the Democrats hold a majority in both chambers (they had their chance early on). Bush tried to have such laws pass but the GOP Congress/Senate members were too stupid to see the logic at the time and allowed it to be a pressure point issue. There are other factors, but I believe this to be one of the main ones that largely goes unaddressed in the media, right or wrong.

    April 25, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  4. mike in NH

    This is easy, require E-verify, punish the firms that violate it and take the carrot away from illegal immigrants.

    April 25, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    "Conservatives love telling that "two year majority" lie. The filibuster proof Senate lasted all of about two months. It began in June 2009 when that comedian guy in Minnesota finally won his court battle against his Republican Senate challenger and was finally sworn in. The majority ended in August 2009 when Ted Kennedy passed away."

    Not quite. As you've been reminded countless times now, Kennedy's seat was filled on an interim basis by Paul Kirk from Kennedy's death until Brown's seating in March, 2010. So once again, Rudy, you push it out as less than 3 months when it was actually over 9 months.
    --------
    Why, thank-you, Fair. I'm sure you know that history better than most anyone here. Thank-you for correcting my debunking of the right wing's "two year, filibuster-proof majority" lie. Yet, you're still ignoring Lieberman, who voted with the Republican minority on most everything, especially tax cuts and spending cuts.
    ---------
    Why you're most welcome, Rudy. You just can't go around debunking something with statements that can in turn be debunked. With respect to Lieberman, I simply don't recall much in the way of tax cuts, and certainly not spending cuts, during this specific time frame. Perhaps you can elaborate.

    April 25, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. The other guy

    Ahhh, just read how the middle class are now living paycheck to paycheck. You know what will fix this mess?
    11-30 million new citizens from poor countries. Yea! That's the ticket!

    April 25, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Joe

    I think the answer goes a little deeper... Democrats have made no meaningful long term attempts at improving enforcement of border security and the Republicans have seen how they have enslaved generations of blacks at the polls because there was a Democratic President in office when civil rights laws were passed, despite the fact that many Republicans had a hand in the civil rights legislation/movement. All seems to be forgotten and what mattered to the minority Black leadership is what party was the sitting President at the time of legislation passing.
    ---------------------------------
    You sound like you've been home schooled. I guess you have never heard of the term "Dixie-crat" before. Following the signing of the Civil Rights Act, and lot of people switched parties. Basically, the Repubilcans who were in favor of the Civil Rights Act joined the party of LBJ, the Democrats. While those who were opposed to the CRA, signed up with the Republicans.

    April 25, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Greg Vick

    The problem is that they don't solve problems. In fact, neither side works together to solve problems. It's what I write my State Senator about all of the time. If you don't work together, come to a mutual agreement to solve the problem, then you are part of the problem.

    April 25, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Marty, FL

    Incompetent Speaker in the Do-Nothing Congress...not funny

    Vote this unreasonable & uncompromising TGOP OUT 2014.

    America deserves better.

    April 25, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Why you're most welcome, Rudy. You just can't go around debunking something with statements that can in turn be debunked. With respect to Lieberman, I simply don't recall much in the way of tax cuts, and certainly not spending cuts, during this specific time frame. Perhaps you can elaborate.
    ------------------------------–
    Republicans wanted spending cuts. Leiberman voted against additional spending to stimulate the economy. Republicans wanted to renege on Bush's promise of temporary tax cuts, by making them permanent. Leiberman was all for keeping the Bush tax cuts. Believe it or not, Repubilcans successfully made many filibusters in 2009, thanks to folks like Joe.

    April 25, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. Hogan's Goat

    " Open borders and instantaneous citizenship seems to be his real goal." I love how you guys all "know Obama's real goals." You are the same fools who beamed adoringly as Dubya rode around Crawford, Texas, drunk on a bicycle while Cheney was the real president, and cheered as our money went to the Middle East without us. By now you should have guessed that you are no good at detecting conmen and stopped listening to them. Hire a teenager to let you know when you are being mocked. Even Boehner is ready to admit it.

    April 25, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. Bob

    House Republicans will not move on this, because they are so anti Hispanics it hurts. The smell is reaching all the way to the heavens.

    April 25, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. Bob

    House Republicans will not move on this, because they are so anti Hispanics it hurts. The discrimination smell is reaching all the way to the heavens.

    April 25, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. Mary

    It isn't that immigration reform is "too hard", it is that the GOP base is xenophobic and racist and would vote against them if they actually voted for a reasonable solution.

    April 25, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. yogi

    "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." Nice try Boehner, this describes YOU and the other GOP obstructionists perfectly. Remember how you were shouting "Jobs! Jobs" back in 2010? So where is the bill?

    April 25, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. CryBabies

    Not hard people.....Build a wall, if need be, build two walls......get it done. Then we can work with the illegals that are here without having to worry about the continuing flow. When I go fishing thats my number one priority.....to fish. I dont set out with a boat with holes in it...hard to fish and bail at the same time. Lets stop bailing and start fishing.

    April 25, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. stuman

    It's hard is Bushism

    April 25, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  18. ED1

    Just Two Short Sentences

    These two short sentences tell you a lot about our government and our culture:

    1. We are advised to not judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics,

    but we are encouraged to judge ALL Gun Owners by the actions of a few lunatics.

    Funny how that works.

    And here’s another one worth considering.

    2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out

    of money. How come we never hear about Welfare running out of money?

    What's interesting is the first group "worked for" their money, but the

    second didn't.

    Profound isn't it... Think about it…

    April 25, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. stuman

    Keeping a thumb on them is what the Republicans want. Cheap labor

    April 25, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Greg Vick

    The problem is that they don't solve problems. In fact, neither side works together to solve problems. It's what I write my State Senator about all of the time. If you don't work together, come to a mutual agreement to solve the problem, then you are part of the problem.
    --------------------------------
    You/re right. Neither side is working together. I blame the Republicans. They boycotted committee meetings that were drafting the ACA. John Boehner is on record on national television proclaiming that "compromise" is not in his vocabulary. If a Republican is caught on camera going in or out of the White House, they get prmaried. Republicans are invited to state dinners, and don't even bother to show up. And, then we have the Tea Party, whose claem to noteriety is "Our way, or the highway." Don't you remember that Tea Party freshman defining compromise as Democrats bending to the will of the Tea Party?

    April 25, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. The other guy

    Hey Hogan!

    Did you know we just released 2 billion to Iran so they can pretend to dial back their nukes?

    Oh yeah, and Iran was also named to the Women's rights body on the UN. The US coulda stopped it, but Ms Armstrong remained silent. The mid-east has gone from bad to worse in the last couple of years since we decided to change sides.
    But, I digress..we're talking about the invasion on this side of the world.

    April 25, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. yogi

    CryBabies
    Not hard people.....Build a wall, if need be, build two walls......get it done. Then we can work with the illegals that are here without having to worry about the continuing flow. When I go fishing thats my number one priority.....to fish. I dont set out with a boat with holes in it...hard to fish and bail at the same time. Lets stop bailing and start fishing.
    -----–
    Sure, if the Chinese could do it centuries ago, why can't we? So, the double walls will be in place, all constructed with the help of illegal immigrants right? Now we have to tackle the next problem, what about the two oceans left and right? Oh well....so much for republican ingenuity....

    April 25, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  23. Hogan's Goat

    Whatever. Who cares what these losers think about stuff they can't affect anyway? Since the GOP won't legislate, the government is beginning to just go around them Chicago-style. They pretended Obamacare wasn't happening and denied themselves any input into setting it up, and that's going to be the way it goes from now on. They can press against the glass and wish they were inside and warm instead of out in the cold pretending blacks were happy as slaves. Losers.

    April 25, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  24. The other guy

    And I want to thank CNN for allowing a few mis-guided comments from one of us evil white guys!
    Your objectivity knows no bounds!

    SALUTE!

    April 25, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  25. The other guy

    ED1.

    Well put! I doubt if any of the kids will read it though. They've been blinded by science!

    April 25, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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