Obama will ‘burn himself’ with executive order on immigration, Boehner says
WASHINGTON — Energized by the Republicans’ resounding electoral victory, House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday promised quick action on a GOP agenda in the next Congress and urged President Obama not to “poison the well” by taking executive action on immigration.
In his first news conference since voters handed him a historic House GOP majority, the Ohio Republican did not offer many olive branches to the White House.
He said the GOP would push for an overhaul of the tax code, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, fewer federal regulations and limits on lawsuits, among other issues.
“Finding common ground is going to be hard work,” Boehner said at the Capitol.
He said Obama risks alienating the new Republican majority in Congress if he takes a “go-it-alone approach.”
That was a reference to Obama’s remarks at a White House news conference Wednesday that he may use his executive powers to alter immigration policy.
“I think it’s fair to say I’ve shown a lot of patience and tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible, and I’m going to continue to do so,” Obama said then. “But in the meantime, let’s see what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the system.”
If Obama acts, Boehner said, “there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” and the president will kill any spirit of bipartisanship before it can take hold.
“When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. He’s going to burn himself,” the speaker warned.
Boehner did not offer much detail on the GOP’s plans for next year. Aside from tort policy and cutting regulations, he said, the GOP would push for greater federal support for charter schools, approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and legislation encouraging employers to hire more veterans.
In his first two terms as speaker, Boehner has been rocked by internal divisions among House Republicans and stymied by a Democratic majority in the Senate. Tuesday’s election results will give Boehner a much stronger hand.
In addition to a GOP-controlled Senate, Boehner will have at least 243 House Republicans — probably more — in the next Congress. A handful of races are still too close to call, but David Wasserman, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, has said the final GOP number will probably be closer to 250, which would give Republicans their largest House majority since 1928.
That doesn’t mean Boehner’s troubles are over. He will face fresh challenges from conservatives in his conference who are emboldened by the election and eager for confrontation with the White House. There is a debate among Republicans over how hard to push for a repeal of the health care law.
“Now is the time to go after and do everything humanly possible to repeal Obamacare,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said at an election night rally. Cruz has met with House conservatives to plot a hard-line strategy on a bevy of issues.
Boehner made it clear that Republicans would spend a good chunk of time attacking Obamacare, saying he would push for a full repeal as well as targeted attacks on the law. He suggested, for example, that the GOP would push to nix the medical device tax and the individual mandate.
“I’m eager to get to work,” Boehner said.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who will lead the new Republican majority in Congress, said Wednesday that he will not have enough votes to overcome an Obama veto of a repeal of the health care law, but he hopes to pass changes.