Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday downplayed the chances of immigration legislation moving in the House this year, saying that President Obama first must rebuild the trust he has lost among Republican lawmakers.
“There’s widespread doubt that this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes,” Boehner said in a prepared statement opening his weekly press conference.
House GOP leaders presented principles for immigration reform to their members last week, and although Boehner said lawmakers “by and large” supported them in substance, other members said a majority of the conference opposed advancing legislation in 2014.
Echoing concerns raised by the rank-and-file, the Speaker criticized Obama for changing his healthcare law “on a whim” and pledging that he would circumvent Congress by enacting his agenda through executive action where possible.
“It’s feeding more distrust about whether he’s committed to the rule of law,” Boehner said.
Earlier in the week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he sees an "irresolvable conflict" standing in the way of action on immigration.
“The Senate insists on comprehensive [legislation]. The House says it won’t go to conference with the Senate on comprehensive and wants to look at [it] step by step.
“I don’t see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place,” McConnell said.
Obama and congressional Democratic leaders have given Boehner a wide berth on immigration, cognizant of the challenge he has in bringing his conservative conference along.
That largely continued on Thursday, as few reacted with immediate alarm to the Speaker’s declaration.
“We remain optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in 2014,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at his daily briefing.
The White House spokesman said the administration had seen “significant movement” among Republican leaders on the issue, and urged them to “work together to build on the existing bipartisan consensus.”
“Nothing this important, nothing this comprehensive comes fast or easy in Washington,” Carney said. “This won’t be any different.”
Across the Capitol, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he wasn't "thrown back” by Boehner's immigration remarks.
"There are so many things going on. For all we know, he had to send a message on immigration to help pass debt ceiling," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was more critical, saying Boehner’s remarks show that Republicans have "decided they have no principles on immigration."
Justin Sink, Alexander Bolton and Vicki Needham contributed.
This story was last updated at 1:36 p.m.