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. BostonFred

    The Globalist Wet Dream For America

    1. Move jobs out of the US with offshoring and outsourcing.
    2. Whatever is left take away by bringing in 'special' foreign workers (a few hundred thousand a year) to take jobs in the US.
    3. Suppress wages across all industries by bringing in 1+ million foreign workers a year.
    4. Push for amnesty of the estimated 12-30 million illegal aliens.
    5. Give work permits first and then promise enforcement say 5 years down the road
    6. Demand that we double legal immigration (from 1 to 2 million a year) including more H-1B, L-1 and other special worker visas and even create a new visa type for unskilled workers.
    7. Push for no workplace enforcement.

    Wake up people – the 1% are trying to eliminate the middle class. Your job is next. Will you stand up and fight or lie down and become an unemployment statistic?

    Join numbersusa dot com and push for no amnesty and for lower immigration levels.

    Mandatory E-Very for all workers and not just new hires and $10,000 per day fine for businesses that have illegal alien workers.

    April 25, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  2. JohnQPublic

    It always amazes me that folks in ivory towers such as politicians have no clue as to the struggles average Americans face.

    We already have the most generous immigration policy in the world and let more immigrants into our country that all other countries combined.

    This massive immigration (1 million legal immigrants and several hundred thousand more specialty visas each and every year) has caused wage suppression across the board for decades.

    There is a strong correlation between the 1965 immigration act and the divergence of pay increases for workers and increase in corporate profits. Basically – salaries have remained flat while corporate profits have dramatically increased.

    Very simply put – the law of supply and demand has held. The more workers the globalists such as Mr Glaeser have pumped into the US economy – the more stagnant our wages have become.

    This shamnesty is proposing even further increases in immigration of 'highly skilled' workers. That means the end of IT, pharm, accounting, nursing and every other middle class job that Americans now hold.

    The globalists who are born with a silver spoon and whose children will attend a fancy prep school and Harvard because of their pedigree will never want while those of us struggling making ends meet will continue to get the short end of the stick.

    No to amnesty, no to immigration increases. Vote out the gang of 8.

    April 25, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. Skeptic

    It's not a matter of working on immigration reform being "hard", it's that Republicans in the House have to lower themselves to appeal to the lowest common denominator of voters, or be removed from office. Just look at "Secession Solution"'s absurd comment to see what I mean.

    An unfortunate fact is that in mid-term elections, the party extremists are more likely to vote than the sane ones are. That is why we have so many nutballs in the House. I wish moderate, rational people would be more willing to vote in mid-terms, but they just don't. I don't know why that is, but it is what it is.

    April 25, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  4. BostonFred

    This should be a no brainer.

    In the late 90's when we had full employment businesses demanded more foreign workers and because things were going good the Clinton administration sided with the Republicans and massively increased legal immigration. The total number of legal immigrants is about 1M per year but when you add in specialty visas like the H-1B, L-1 etc, family reunification and special immigration of protected groups we arrive to about 1.8 million each and every year.

    The politicians corporate sponsors really enjoy having more bodies to fill jobs than jobs so they can keep wages low.

    When companies have to compete for the best worker – wages rise. Right now with effectively unlimited immigration and both parties looking to add more immigration – workers are so screwed and we will be luck to keep up with inflation.

    Most are like me who've had to take lesser paying jobs and we are barely able to keep our heads above water.

    Do you think we should curtail legal immigration until our unemployment rate is lowered?

    Or do you side with the Senate illegal alien amnesty bill which has a provision to double legal immigration?

    If you think as I do that the current 1.8M legal immigrants is an insanely high number in a down economy what words would describe doubling immigration levels when tens of millions of Americans want but can't find work?

    I know the politicians don't want to hear it as they are bought and paid for but real workers don't want to have to compete with millions of cheaper paid foreign workers.

    April 25, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  5. The King

    I'm left of center, and in the final analysis, I stand for the working class. But, why are we even considering letting these illegals stay? They undermine our workforce, undercut organized labor, and take jobs that we need for legitimate citizens. I say, round them up, to include their anchor babies, and ship them the hell out of here.

    April 25, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Bill – Republicans sure flocked around the dead beat welfare queen law breaker in Nevada. Don't speak for the American people.

    April 25, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Good morning Secession Solution....

    Yep that pesky racism is so dead.

    April 25, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  8. Nick

    A soundbite worthy of Jon Stewart! I mean that as a compliment.
    Perhaps the sentiment does strike a chord with other politicians and reintroduce them to the concepts of moderation and negotiation.

    LMAO! Who are we kidding! That is NOT going to happen!

    April 25, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  9. Independent to Avoid Ignorance

    I'm pretty conservative and a follower of Jesus Christ! When it comes to immigration, everyone needs to understand that you have to deal with the people who are here....... should they be here, NO....... are they here, YES. We can't expect to send families 'back' when they haven't been there for 20 years and have no connections to any country but the US.

    In summary, I don't support killing babies or accepting sexual immorality BUT we have to fix the border and provide a road for those already here. A LONG ROAD THAT IS MORE DIFFICULT THAT THOSE STANDING IN LINE LEGALLY but a road none the less............

    April 25, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  10. Bryan

    The irony is a country that was taken illegally by Eurpean immigrants who slaughtered thousands of natives already here now complains about illegal immigration.

    April 25, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. GreyMan

    I'm changing this year and voting in the Republican primary in my state so I can vote for all non-Tea candidates.

    April 25, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "The Republican Party should be large enough for fact-based policy debates. "

    Perhaps the Party, but not their minds.

    April 25, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. TONE

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

    Now that's a classic example of playing the race card, how is a traitor to his race?

    April 25, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. Sniffit

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

    No doubt to be followed shortly by a full-throated and hysterical defense of Cliven Bundy's 20+ years of scoff-law nonsense.

    April 25, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  15. 1776usa2016

    Heritage Action is a Koch Bros. puppet.


    April 25, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  16. TONE

    @secession solution
    I mean how is he a traitor to his race?

    April 25, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  17. Bob

    The Republicans really need to pass immigration reform in order to survive, or have a chance during the elections. They have painted themselves into this situation by all the anti Hispanic rhetoric, and comments that were made during the campaign. Republicans are being held accountable for what was said, and done.

    April 25, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  18. Dan

    The only thing wrong with our immigration laws is , we're not enforcing them.

    April 25, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  19. Sniffit

    He's not serious, is he? What a joke. He has the power to force them to vote on the Senate's very bipartisan immigration reform bill. If he REALLY wanted to LEAD and make decisions and choices, he'd threaten his entire party that the Senate bill is going to be allowed a House vote by a certain date unless they get their obstructionist rear ends in gear and come up with their own proposal to vote on.

    April 25, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  20. Michael tipton

    While I am not a Boehner fan at all he does make a valid point. It's far easier for the Republicans to just vote no on everything then to actually try to tackle some of our nations most pressing problems. Sadly the legacy of the Republican party will be nothing since they actually did nothing.

    April 25, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. Gunderson

    Old Gunderson no understand? Why it so hard to understand Constitution? True it shredded by Liberals last 100 years sans 18 Trillion Dollar Federal Debt. True U.S. have highest tax Rate of Civilized World So Business Hire undocumented and pay under table or go out of Business. No doubt Inmates still run Asylum and want Cake and Eat it too. So you have bite bullet and elect sensible representives who take hard positions or give away store. We no need immigration reform, just follow Constitution.

    April 25, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  22. James

    People move and migrate that is a natural occurrence nothing new under this sun. just yesterday the American Indian was concerned with all the white men... then the white men was concerned about the black man, now both of them are concerned about the brown men. he he he ... the cycle of life never stops, dig below your feet and you see evidence of many colors that have come and gone from your precious little america. Wake up! you didn't build it and you can't keep it ask the last Roman empire or any empire for that matter, oh that's right they don't exist anymore.

    April 25, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  23. Bob

    House Republicans will burn the house down if they have to. They are not going to pass immigration reform, or even try. There is so much racism in that house that its killing them. Its like you are trying to help them help themselves, but they are blinded by there racism its impossible.

    April 25, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |

    If you stopped thinking about your ways for a minute you would realize that not only are these 11 million + already living and making a living here in the US, they are not going to take your Job BOSTONFRED they are already working, having children and getting benefits for them as well. I you looked outside the box for a minute you would realize that the best way to get our economy moving again is by having all these immigrants like myself pay taxes on money they are already earning weather you like it or not. Make them pay for insurance like we all do!! and they can only do that if they have a social security number not that hard!!! If people stopped making stupid assumptions and look at the fact that, all these people are already here and are surviving already how ????? With our corrupt system that doesn't want to realize that if we penalize them and make them contribute with a fine of around $5000 each that I can assure you they have because not only they work and provide for their lives here but also in their county of origin helping their families there as well. You would realize that this would boost our economy and bring some light at the end of the tunnel. ALL THAT THESE EXTREMIST DO THAT WRITE ON THESE POST ARE FOLLOW A CROWD AND NOT KNOW THE FACTS. I AM AN IMMIGRANT, I UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY COME FROM I PAY MY TAXES BECAUSE I HAVE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. THEY WILL TOO IF THEY COULD I CAN TELL YOU ONCE THEY ARE REQUIRED TO DO SO AS WELL YOU WILL SEE HOW MANY OF THEM THE LAZY ONES DECIDE TO RETURN TO THEIR OWN LAND AND POPULATION CONTROL WILL BE DONE !!! STOP SPEAKING ABOUT SOMETHING YOU REALLY HAVE NO CLUE, JUST LIKE ALL THE ASSES IN CONGRESS

    April 25, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  25. TONE

    The Truth Hurts

    Boehner and McConnell have spines made of linguini.

    I concur just add all the other spineless gop from the house and senate they cannot make any decisions for themselves, they have to follow orders from Rush, Hannity, Beck, the Koch brothers and many others.

    April 25, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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