POLITICS

Boehner Apologizes To House Republicans For Teasing Them About Immigration Reform

House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014.  (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS2014)

John Boehner doesn’t mock.

Well, maybe just a little. And lovingly.

At a closed-door meeting with congressional Republicans Tuesday morning, the Speaker apologized for comments he made over the recess at an Ohio Rotary Club, apparently mocking politicians for stalling on working on an overhaul of the immigration system.

"Here's the attitude,” Boehner said last week before affecting a high-pitched tone, “'Oh, don't make me do this. Oh, this is too hard,'" he went on. He added that some of his colleagues in Congress would prefer to ignore that, "We get elected to solve problems."

According to Roll Call, during the session with his fellow Republicans, the Speaker also assured colleagues that he has no interest in pushing immigration reform over their objections.

After the meeting, Boehner spoke to reporters, and he appeared to back down from the pugnacious stance he took at the Rotary Club.

"You tease the ones you love, right?" Boehner told reporters. "But some people misunderstood what I had to say. I can rib people just a little too much sometimes. This wouldn't be the first time."

“I wanted to make sure the members understood the biggest impediment we have to moving immigration reform is that the America people don’t trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass,” he said, according to the website Politico.

Asked if there would be a vote on immigration reform, Boehner answered, “We all know we have a broken immigration system. We’re going to continue to work with our members and have discussions to see if there’s a way forward.”

Some conservatives took offense at Boehner's comments, saying the Speaker should be keeping the focus on Barack Obama. Some Republicans say it's largely the president's fault that comprehensive immigration legislation, including border security and eventual citizenship for millions, remains stalled in the House 10 months after Senate passage. They say they can't trust Obama because of his record of taking steps by executive action.

Democrats, meanwhile, saw signs of renewed hope for immigration legislation in Boehner's comments blaming the House GOP, though Boehner's aides downplayed any such suggestion.

Asked Tuesday about Boehner's remarks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "I'm glad he's complaining about his members for a change so I don't have to."

Because of the dim prospects on Capitol Hill, Obama has come under extraordinary pressure to act on his own to stem deportations and address the 11.5 million people in the country illegally. The administration is weighing curbing deportations of people here illegally who have little or no criminal record, but timing on any such steps is uncertain.

Administration officials appear to want to give Boehner time and space to exhaust the possibility of congressional action before moving forward on their own.

After the closed-door meeting on Tuesday, Politico spoke to a couple of the other House Republicans present at the meeting and found little rancor toward Boehner over the comments.

“He was really just, I think, trying to get ahead of any criticism,” Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said. “I do think some members were offended by that, and I think he was trying to put it in proportion in saying that it was not as serious as maybe it seemed to be.”

“People say all kinds of things,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) when asked for his reaction to Boehner’s remarks. “No big deal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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