(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker John Boehner said at a press conference today that “it is just time to deal with” the issue of immigration reform, indicating he hopes to enact an immigration law in the coming year.
Meanwhile, Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, did not respond this afternoon to an emailed question from CNSNews.com asking him whether the speaker would rule out enacting a law that granted legal status or a pathway to citizenship to illegal aliens.
Boehner also warned President Obama not to take unilateral action on immigration, saying that if he did so it would prevent Congress from actually passing legislation for the same purpose.
“I want to talk to our members about how to move forward, but I’ve made my position very clear,” Boehner said. “It is time for the Congress of the United States to deal with a very difficult issue in our society. This immigration issue has become a political football over the last ten years or more. It is just time to deal with it.”
When a reporter asked Boehner whether a Republican presidential nominee could “afford to run if you have not acted on this issue,” Boehner said: “This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for the country.”
“Listen, you've all heard me say starting two years ago yesterday that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed,” Boehner said. “But I've made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own, outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress. It’s as simple as that.”
A reporter asked Boehner if Obama taking unilateral action on immigration would be a “catalyst for you to actually get something done.”
“No, because I believe if the president continues to act on his own he is going to poison the well,” said Boehner. “When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he is going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path. The American people made it clear on Election Day, they want to get things done, and they don’t want the president acting on a unilateral basis.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama had said that before the end of the year he intends to take unilateral executive action that will change the status of some illegal aliens in the United States.
Obama also said he believed that Boehner sincerely wanted to pass the immigration bill in the House that was passed by the Senate in the last Congress. That bill allowed illegal aliens to gain legal status in the United States and get on a so-called “path to citizenship.”
“So we got a bipartisan bill out of the Senate. I asked John Boehner at that point, can we pass this through the House? There’s a majority of votes in the House to get this passed,” said Obama. “And Speaker Boehner I think was sincere about wanting to pass it, but had difficulty over the last year trying to get it done.
“So when he finally told me he wasn't going to call it up this year, what I indicated to him is I feel obliged to do everything I can lawfully with my executive authority to make sure that we don't keep on making the system worse, but that whatever executive actions that I take will be replaced and supplanted by action by Congress,” said Obama. “You send me a bill that I can sign, and those executive actions go away."
Boehner also talked today about his efforts to enact immigration reform in the last Congress.
“I could regale you with all my challenges trying to get members on both sides of the aisle to deal with this. They were numerous,” said Boehner. “But hope springs eternal.”
Yesterday, six Republican Senators--Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Mike Crapo of Idaho--sent a letter to lame-duck Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid describing Obama's planned unilateral action as a "lawless amnesty" that "will create a constitutional crisis."
The six Republican senators offered to assist Reid in passing a measure that would block unilateral action by Obama. But they warned that if Reid did not work to block Obama's unilateral action they would "use all procedural means necessary to return the Senate's focus during the lame duck session to resolving the constitutional crisis created by President Obama's lawless amnesty."
CNSNews.com contacted Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel via email immediately after the press conference at 1:40 p.m. and asked him this question: “Does the speaker rule out passing an immigration reform bill through the House that would grant legal status or a pathway to citizenship to people who are currently in the United States illegally?”
By the time this story was posted, Steel had not responded.