All-Star Panel: Speaker of the House pulls the plug on immigration reform?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 6, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R – OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: There is widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.

HARRY REID, D – NV, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Last week, at their retreat, they outlined a principle of immigration. Well, I guess today they decided they have no principles that relates to immigration.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Senate majority leader Harry Reid enjoying the dramatic change in direction today from the House Speaker John Boehner on the subject of immigration reform. And we're back now with the panel. Well, last week House Republican leaders had their caucus and they released a set of standards for comprehensive immigration reform. Today, as you heard, House Speaker John Boehner said it would be difficult to push any immigration reform this year. George, what happened?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think they are rethinking the whole idea of "comprehensive." We are waste deep in the big muddy of comprehensive health care reform. And now they want to do comprehensive immigration reform. And I will show you what it looks like. That big boy is the Senate immigration bill. It's 1,197 pages long because it answers every conceivable question. It tells you what should be the hourly wage of an immigrant animal sorter in 2016 -- $9.84 if you are wondering about it. You know, everything.

This is how we used to do things. This is the Homestead Act of 1862, settled the American West. It was immigration bill. It was designed to attract immigrants. To be fair, the copy and the parchment copy in the archives is four pages long, but still 1,193 pages shorter than this one. We don't do comprehensive well. We can break it up into little bits, but don't do more comprehensive.

WALLACE: Now, it's interesting. Speaker Boehner said today, that given President Obama's selective enforcement, and I think that certainly is true of the rules in ObamaCare, that he and other Republicans don't trust the president in terms of enforcing both the borders as well as a path to legalization. Juan, do you think that's what's really going on here?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: No. I mean, it's such a cover story. I mean, it's incredible. I mean, obviously, a week or so ago, John Boehner thought that he was able to lead his troops towards an immigration deal that was going to be acceptable, doing it piecemeal and getting that through the House in part, and then forcing the Senate to negotiate, and had the Senate and had the Democrats waiting, saying, you know what, the president is not going to get involved. We don't want to screw up what John Boehner is trying to put together.

What you have now is a situation where Boehner all of sudden says, you know what, we can't trust President Obama. But, gee, isn't President Obama the one who is deporting so many Hispanics at a cost to his political stature with the Hispanic community? There is a real anger in the Hispanic community at the fact that he deports a record, historic number of people. Two-thirds of the American people support immigration reform. What you have seen today is Boehner  -- who was, after the last shutdown, angry and able to speak out against Heritage Action and all the rest -- caving to the talk radio crowd that sank immigration reform under George Bush. That's what's going on.

WALLACE: The fact is, Charles, that after Boehner released and the Republican leaders released this set of standards for -- it was going to be piecemeal but it was going to add up to a comprehensive immigration reform, that there were a lot of Republicans who said that no matter what he called it, it was still amnesty and that it was crazy to bring up an issue that divided Republicans right in the middle of an election that they look like they are going to do pretty well in.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, it was one of those rare, dawning of sanity among Republicans. The principles, I think, are really good, and I would agree with almost all of them -- border enforcement and then legalization, but not amnesty.

But, the tactics that they have settled on today are exactly right. The point is that this is something you need to wait for next year for several reasons. A, it would fracture the Republicans in a year that will be all of theirs, all theirs, if they concentrate on the one issue, which is dividing the country, extremely unpopular, and is the embodiment of Obama liberalism, namely ObamaCare. You don't want to introduce a distraction.

Second, you want immigration reform -- and to concentrate now on winning the Senate. Therefore, second, if you win the Senate and do you this next year, you're in a position to actually pass a bill which would be infinitely better than anything you could get today.

And then, third, the Republicans are absolutely right to say that if you cannot trust the president to carry out the law faithfully. And he hasn't even carried out faithfully his own law, which he's amended 16 times and he is now going to continue to amend unilaterally and lawlessly, how do you expect him to carry out faithfully a law in which he is going to have to compromise on enforcement? So it's absolutely right. Not this year. Work on health care reform, win the Senate, and do it next year.

WILLIAMS: Isn't it the case that he has deported a record number of people, and don't you think there is a risk to the party of energizing the Hispanic vote?

WALLACE: You have five seconds to answer that.

KRAUTHAMMER: Deportation is irrelevant. The question is --

WILLIAMS: When he enforces the law it is irrelevant.

KRAUTHAMMER: Would he enforce the border. There isn't a single indication that he would.

WALLACE: And that's it for the panel. But stay tuned to find out why preparations for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi are still such a mess.

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