April 25th, 2014
08:55 AM ET
6 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.'"

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. Secession Solution

    Boehner – you are a traitor to your party and your race.

    April 25, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  2. The other guy

    The Republicans are dead. One party now. Which will lead to One world government led by the corrupt UN.
    Will this work for you CNN?

    April 25, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  3. JJR

    The politicians are who created the criminal illegal invader problem by ignoring the invasion. Now they want to be "heroes" with amnesty. Reagans amnesty opened the door for illegals and made the immigration laws a joke. History is now doomed to repeat itself.

    April 25, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  4. DC Johnny

    How about we follow the rule of law, John?

    Rather than pardon ten million criminals, paving the way for them to become low-educated, non-employable, handout-taking Democrat voters for life, lets send them back to their country of origin and let that country deal with the problem.

    America is a land of opportunity for those willing to immigrate lawfully and adhere to our values. Period.

    April 25, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    Says Cantor while working out the details of the House of Representatives yearly work schedule calendar. This is the least scheduled working Congress in modern history. Either Cantor has problems working out calendars or he more importantly has problems working for his congressional paycheck.

    April 25, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  6. Bill

    Ah, Boehner pulls another Boehner.

    Here's a clue, you Boehner: the American people don't want "comprehensive immigration reform" or ANY bill that rewards ANY lawbreakers. EVER.

    April 25, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  7. BeverlyNC

    Boehner should be the one mocked and thrown out as Speaker. He has been the one to REFUSE to bring bills up for a vote in the House. JOBS, VETERANS AID, and yes, IMMIGRATION.

    He should be thrown out of office for leading the most do-nothing, least in-session House in our history. They work 3 days a week and are off one week for 2 they work – a Boehner implementation once he became Speaker! And Republicans work for the PEOPLE??

    No they work at fundraising events and cattle calls by the Koch brothers. Throw them all out in November so real leaders can get real work done for the People and moving our nation forward.

    Democrats are leaders. Republicans are destroyers, haters, and a cheat-to-win Party with not one single idea or solution. It is why they have to run only attack ads. They have nothing to run because they have done nothing and have no clue what they stand for. They are just against everything and stand for nothing.

    April 25, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  8. Chris-E...al

    0ur kids sure could use some of those jobs the illegals hold this summer during their break maybe ? I know some would take them but many would nt ? Prob never know whats the use ?

    April 25, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  9. Evelyn Mills

    There should never be any amnesty ever. Border enforcement ,E-Verify for all employers with stiff penalties for those who do not comply. All employees both existing and new hires should be checked, if those illegally in America could no longer find employment ,they would likely go home .Thus more jobs for Americans.
    No foreign person should be brought in at the expense of an American worker.

    April 25, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  10. luke,az

    Moderate Republicans need to kick out the tea party. If the tea party had any guts they would start their own party, but they don't. America suffers because the Republican party is stuck in the mud. President Obama has done an outstanding job in spite of the dysfunction in the party of the mastodon.

    April 25, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  11. Josh

    Jsizzle – it's funny that more people have been deported during Obama's time in office than ever before.. but don't let facts get in the way of your blind hatred.

    Over the past few months I have started to gain some respect for Boehner. He seems to be one of the few who is willing to compromise on issues to actually get things done. I still won't vote for him (he's my rep) because I am against career politicians but he's finally making some sense.

    April 25, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    Speaker Boehner can be an example of courage and integrity by working with Democrats on immigration reform. It takes courage because of fierce visceral opposition from far right wing conservative purists and Tea Partiers in his party.

    April 25, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Well Boehner, you're their leader and you have sided with them constantly. You have openly mocked the POTUS. You sit behind him when he's speaking with this look of utter hatred on your face and it's televised. You've hated him from day 1, so you welcomed these extremists with open arms. Allowing them free reign and now they're taking over. You reap what you sow Johnny Boy.

    This kind of reminds me of the snake story... A guy is driving down the street and sees an injured snake lying on the side of the road, he stops, takes it home and nurses it back to health. When the snake gets well it bites him and the guy asks the snake, "I took care of you, why did you bite ME?" The snake replies, "you knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

    Welcome to the wonderful world of Karma John-boy.

    April 25, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  14. carolinadr

    I am shocked that the meaning of the word "illegal" escapes the thought of people like Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, and the rest. They surely know the meaning of "bob & weave" however.

    April 25, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  15. Luc

    conservative GOP want to do immigration piece by piece that is why they will not win POTUS and we will see them in 2024.Piece by piece means it will never get done good for America don't have to worry about GOP winning POTUS this century.

    April 25, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  16. Hogan's Goat

    Talk, talk, talk. No jobs bill and an unhealthy preoccupation with stopping poor people from getting medical aid. Nope, until they calm down and get back to being Americans first, we can't vote for them. Right now they are insane with rage and grief over the loss of their favorite rich mittboy. Give them ten years and they might get over this PTSD, or they might all be living under bridges.

    April 25, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  17. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Secession Solution

    Boehner – you are a traitor to your party and your race.

    Sounds like you are a traitor to your country!

    April 25, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  18. ART

    Ladies and Gentlemen I give you John Boehner the worst Speaker of the house ever, and I mean ever

    April 25, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. sammy z

    As an intelligent person with critical thinking skills, I am by no means a fan of Rep. Boehner, but he is not the Boogey Man. He's a pragmatist trying to survive in a sea of stupidity powered by the currents of the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party would be much better off and get my vote much more often if they were to completely separate themselves from the Tea Party, the Religious Right and Big Business.

    April 25, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  20. smith

    Both sides are unwilling to give in a little to make a solution to this problem. The GOP wants several small bills and the Dems want one huge bill. The Dems could easily call the GOP bluff by making some small bills but if the GOP in the House passed them then there goes the whole cry of obstruction.

    April 25, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  21. John Illinois

    Amnesty garbage was already done and has proven to be a massive failure and now were are worse than we were then. Enforce the laws and deport the illegal alien criminals and their anchor babies!

    April 25, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  22. ghostwriter

    One of these days, conservatives will realize their heroes are all just frauds. Most were cheerleading republicans when they did the exact same things democrats did.

    April 25, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Uh-oh ... sour grapes unsettling your tum-tum, John? Let me remind you least you've forgotten: YOU let the TeaPers in John Boehner. Indeed, you courted their votes. And look ... look ... how they treat you. Tsk. Tsk.

    Ah, well. You are welcome to join the ever growing crowd of those of us disenchanted with your party of circus clowns and do nothing bums.

    April 25, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  24. paul reynolds

    Rare Honesty from a RepubliCon!??

    Well, there was also a rare Blood Moon recently, so miracle do happen!

    April 25, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  25. The Truth Hurts

    Boehner and McConnell have spines made of linguini.

    April 25, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
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