Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBenghazi Blues If 'bipartisanship' is now a dirty word, how about a rebranding? Cameras go dark during House Democrats' sit-in MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday said it is "time to deal with" immigration but warned executive actions by President Obama would "poison the well" for legislation.
Boehner said that while he wants to talk to his members about the path forward, "I’ve made my position very clear: It’s time for the Congress of the United States to deal with a very difficult issue in our society."
Speaking in public for the first time since the GOP's midterm election triumph, Boehner acknowledged that immigration reform has become a "political football," but said, "It’s just time to deal with it."
Still, if Obama acts on his own, “there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress,” he said.
Obama on Wednesday at his post-election press conference said it was his "profound preference" that lawmakers act to deal with problems in the immigration system, including the millions of people who are in the country illegally.
"But what I’m not going to do is just wait," Obama said. "I think it’s fair to say that I have shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible. And I’m going to keep on doing so. But in the meantime, let’s figure out what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the existing system."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president wouldn't be deterred by Boehner's warning.
"The answer is, yes, the president is going to take that action," Earnest said.
Earnest said one of the lessons from the elections is that voters want leaders in Washington to get moving.
"We think that the central lesson here is, what are the elected representatives of the American people in Washington, D.C. doing to produce results for them?" Earnest said. "And one way that the president can generate results to the American people is to take this kind of common-sense, substantive action that will be good for the economy."
The president had been preparing executive order on immigration this fall but delayed it until after the election. Senate Democrats facing tough reelection races had privately pleaded for the president to wait.
With the elections over, and Democrats having suffered steep losses, immigration reform groups are demanding that Obama move forward.
“There are no more excuses to delay an administrative relief package,” Caroline Dessert, executive director of Immigration Equality, said Wednesday.
Boehner said Obama should not go it alone, warning it could burn bridges with Republicans just as they are set to take control of the legislative agenda in the next Congress.
"If the president continues to act on his own he is going to poison the well," Boehner said. "He’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path."
The Speaker also pinned blame on Obama for the lack of action on legislation last year, saying the president’s order on deferred deportations contributed to the crisis at the border that overwhelmed federal officials this summer.
“What held us back last year was a flood of kids coming to the border because of the actions that the president had already taken,” he said.
Pressed as to why the House didn’t pass an immigration bill before then, Boehner said he’s been working to spur action for some time.
“I could regale you with all of my challenges of trying to get members on both sides of the aisle to deal with this. They were numerous. But hope springs eternal.”
House Republican leaders pushed for immigration legislation in the aftermath of the 2012 elections, at one point presenting their conference with a set of “principles” for reform that proved controversial.
Justin Sink contributed.
Updated at 2:18 p.m.