April 25th, 2014
08:55 AM ET
9 years 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.'"

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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. Gurgyl

    --where is the JOBS-BILL?

    April 25, 2014 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    If you haven't heard the sound bite, then you have no idea what this article is really about. He sums it up perfectly.

    April 25, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  3. 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.

    April 25, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    -you can mock later, but think, these internet companies greed is they go bankrupt just like cable companies. Read Huffington post article.

    April 25, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  5. Jerry C

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending the benefits for the long tern unemployed another year would save 200,000 jobs ‪#‎RenewUI‬ Why is John Boehner so against it?

    April 25, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  6. yoshimoto

    this guy is a shill for lobbyists and is SO typical of a politician who will sell out his country to stay in office....

    April 25, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  7. iceload

    Boehner may be the one person with the courage to start telling the truth about how messed up govt is. I think he's tired of being in the sand box with the other kids and wants to finally stand for something that will benefit the US.

    April 25, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  8. kingliberal

    Don't bother trying to pretend you want to accomplish something on immigration reform. Hispanics will never be tricked into voting for your ilk. They all know who you are in your heart.

    April 25, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  9. jack_wagon

    Another prime example from the party of NO! The speaker is spot on....bunch of do nothings.

    April 25, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  10. Jsizzle

    Yeah, it's easy to mock the GOP when your plan is "it's too hard to deport them all, let's just immunize them!"

    April 25, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  11. Keith

    The most do nothing Congress in the history of our nation I continuing to work on it's stellar reputation.

    April 25, 2014 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  12. Claude

    Speaking of "making choices", clearly in the war of the "establishment" Republicans versus the "Tea Party" Republicans, Boehner has decided to throw his support to the "establishment" side...at least until November has passed. Then he'll be back to cat herding.

    April 25, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  13. street smart

    GOPs attitude is, "Cant win, dont try, just spin instead to get re elected".

    April 25, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  14. Gary

    The Republican Party needs to clean house... I just don't know what they can fill it with anymore. Democrats can be just as annoying but I've sided more with them in the last 15 years than The Republicans. I just am not sure why the Republicans have such "out there" views. My mother is 78 years old, a Republican, and thinks they're lost, My Father is 80, and was a Republican up until last year, switch to no Party...

    April 25, 2014 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  15. PM Ohio

    He's complaining about the "do nothing" Congress he is responsible for leading? The moment he decided to join the Tea Party in shutting down the Government, because they could not do thier own jobs, I lost all remaining resppect for this guy. The problem with the GOP isn't the Tea Party, they have always been there, the problem is that there is no one with enough character and strength to tel lthe Tea Party "no", and that they are wrong on many things. The Tea Party is tearing apart the GOP. Republicans will continue to win local elections because of jerrymandering, but thier Party, cobbled together with many special interests, will always fracture under pressure. They do not have a unified message or platform because of this.

    April 25, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  16. Ratickle

    Boehner is the "poster child" for RINOs.

    April 25, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  17. plain & simple

    What...the tan man is starting to show a backbone? Must need to show voters at home he is a man of action!!! Or could he actually have a conscience, guilty about being paid for doing nothing, maybe he wants to put America's people and their issues first? Whatever it may be thank goodness!

    April 25, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  18. A Matter of Fact

    Things may be very different for Boehner this time around! He may have had good results in the past but people are wising up fast as to what his true agenda is and in the end he will suffer defeat like most Republicans. We do not need those who are not compassionate toward others in America. We do not need those who believe in Cutting services that we rightfully deserve to have and have earned. We do not need obstructionists in Washington. Republicans do not want to pass the Dream Act yet want the Hispanic/Latino vote that they will most certainly not receive again! We need Democrats that will get things done and actually Help the people!

    April 25, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  19. Frank Tillery

    Now this is the Speaker of the House really speaking! Thank you sir.

    April 25, 2014 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  20. Pandamonius

    " 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."

    My math may be off, but getting only 61% of the vote while running UNOPPOSED doesn't seem like a bragging point......

    April 25, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    Boehner isn't smart enough to KNOW the real problem with immigration.

    April 25, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  22. vikingwoman

    Seems Boehner is trying to distance himself from the T in the current GOTP & every time he does HE sounds like a whiny kid! The truth is that he's been just as ineffectual as those he's mocking now! He's their Leader, for cryinoutloud! This is just classic re-election tactics! If voters feel he needs to be replaced, so be it! Aside from that I have just 2 more words: Term Limits!!

    April 25, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  23. Paul Cooper

    'Ohhhh, don't make me do this. Ohhhh, this is too hard.'

    Sounds like Boehner when you ask him why he can't stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars we don't have on liberal pet programs.

    April 25, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  24. Dump The Tea


    Boehner is the "poster child" for RINOs.

    The Tea Party has dragged the GOP so far too the right
    they can no longer see the center.
    Raticle is the perfect example.
    Propaganda works.

    April 25, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  25. markinfla

    I guess RINO is now officially the GOP equivalent of the "One True Religion" as perceived by the "TRUE" believers. Their hero Reagan could never get nominated as he would be considered thoroughly a RINO. Now that anyone who would walk by a homeless person without kicking him is a RINO the party is truly adrift.

    April 25, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
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