WASHINGTON -- Consistent with GOP comments in recent weeks, House Speaker John Boehner admonished President Barack Obama for acting on immigration without Congress, as the president officially announced in his address to the nation Thursday night. Boehner renewed his threat that the House will act in response but gave no further details about exactly what they will do.
"The president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek," Boehner told reporters Friday morning. "And as I told the president yesterday, he's damaging the presidency itself."
By moving forward with the immigration executive orders he covered in his prime-time address, allowing about 5 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country for three years, Obama opened up what is likely to be a bitter fight between the White House and Republicans in Congress in the coming months and years. Conservatives are infuriated with Obama for moving forward on immigration, even though two Republican presidents in recent memory issued similar executive actions on immigration. And while their leadership will likely never go along with it, the most conservative in the Congress aren't ruling out filing impeachment bills.
Obama heads to Las Vegas today to rally support for his executive orders, and the image of the president standing in front of cheering supporters talking about the importance of his actions is sure to further anger conservatives.
The result of the fight could be expansive. Congress must pass a government funding bill by Dec. 11, otherwise risking a government shutdown. Conservatives are pressing for that kind of response, but it's unlikely their leadership will go along. Others are arguing they could just defund the portions of the government that would implement the executive orders. But that could be a problem since they operate on specific fees, not general taxes.
On the policy itself, many Republicans agree with the president, often citing the problems with the nation's immigration system. Republicans are trying to make the fight not about the policy -- that can also lead to a difficult, talking point-heavy debate -- but instead about Obama overreaching and abusing executive power.
"In the days ahead, the people's House will rise to this challenge," Boehner said. "We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk."
But that kind of threat is nothing new for Boehner. For weeks, the speaker has said the House will respond in some way, but he has yet to say what exactly he will do. Asked again on Friday, Boehner said he is working with his members.
"The House will in fact act," he said.
In responding to the president saying that if Congress doesn't like what he did, they should pass their own legislation, Boehner made the argument that it was impossible for a vote to happen while Obama continued to act on his own. It's an argument conservatives have frequently made against the president: Why pass any law he could abuse since we think he's abusing all the laws that are already on the books?
Boehner pointed to Obama’s decision to delay or change the implementation of some parts of the Affordable Care Act as the reason Republicans don’t trust him to execute any other laws. In fact, on Friday House Republicans filed a long-threatened lawsuit against the administration challenging the way the Affordable Care Act was implemented, according to the New York Times.
Conservatives in Congress have clamored many times for a suit against Obama. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., wanted to sue him this year for threatening to move forward.
"His actions were making it impossible for us to do what he wanted us to do," Boehner said regarding immigration.
The speaker has never completely ruled out passing any legislation. After it became clear he wasn't going to be able to get the Senate-passed comprehensive bill to come to a vote in the House, he started trying to pass piecemeal bills that would have addressed parts of the problem. But those stalled out too.
Asked if he could revive that process, Boehner said he does want to address the problem. "We ought to do it in the democratic process, moving bills through the people's house and to the president's desk," Boehner said.
And he made the case that what the president is enacting won't even fix the problem. "The action by the president yesterday will only encourage more people to come here illegally, putting their lives at risk," Boehner said.