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Speaker Boehner Says The House Will Act On Immigration


And this morning, House Speaker John Boehner has weighed in. He delivered a statement reacting to President Obama's plans to overhaul the country's immigration system. Here's some of what he had to say.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek. And as I told the president yesterday, he's damaging the presidency itself.

RATH: NPR's Scott Horsley has been following the debate and following Speaker Boehner's remarks. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Arun. How are you?

RATH: I'm doing well. Thank you. So the speaker was sounding some notes we've been hearing from the Republicans all week.

HORSLEY: That's right. And we're really hearing this from both sides now. Polls suggest that the American people do want the two parties to work together. But they're not terribly optimistic that that's going to happen, and with good reason after what we've seen here in Washington.

And now you're seeing the Republicans and the White House trying to point the finger of blame at the other party as the obstacle to cooperation. You hear John Boehner talking about the White House sabotaging it. Yesterday, you heard the White House. They were asked, why not wait a little while to act on this? And they said, look, when John Boehner was asked on the day after the election if the White House delays executive action on immigration, will you commit to taking up the bipartisan Senate bill? John Boehner wouldn't commit to doing that, and the White House says that's when they decided, OK, time to move forward.

RATH: And some awfully dramatic language from the speaker, talking about damaging the presidency itself. I mean, it's not like there's been a good relationship up to this point. Have things fundamentally changed?

HORSLEY: Yeah, I think it is important to point out that the era of bipartisan cooperation in Washington did not end at 8:01 Eastern Time last night. It is also interesting to hear Tom Cole - Congressman Cole - sounding a message that the Republicans have been using for days now, which is using the president's own words against him because for much of last year when he was trying to keep the heat on Congress, President Obama would repeatedly tell immigration activists, look, I can't do all this on my own. I need Congress to act.

Now, legal experts tell me that the president actually is on pretty solid legal ground. One law professor from Yale said, look, this isn't even a close call. The president has plenty of precedent and legal authority to take the steps he's taking. But rhetorically, this is tough for the president now to have his own words thrown back at him. And it's not the first time that Barack Obama has been tripped up by his own words. It's sort of puzzling for a politician who rose to power partly on the strength of his talents as a wordsmith. You know, it wouldn't be so bad if it were sort of a politician known for malapropos, but Barack Obama lives by the word and now is having those words turned on him.

RATH: Finally, the speaker said that the House will act when it comes to immigration. What does that mean?

HORSLEY: Well, he was pressed on, what does that mean? And he was vague. So the Republicans are trying to figure out how to respond to this. They don't want to overreact. They don't want this to become all about them and their inability to govern in a rational manner. But they do want to take some action that shows their resistance to what the president's trying to do. It may involve the power of the purse, but that's a pretty blunt instrument. And there are real questions about how much - how much financial sway the House can handle over action like this.

RATH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks Scott.

HORSLEY: My pleasure.

RATH: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.