By Mike Lillis
House Democratic leaders went after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday for holding up immigration reform, saying he's taking the same easy path he recently criticized in his ranks.
"Speaker Boehner … is taking the path of least resistance. He's not putting the bill on the floor," Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
Hoyer noted that Boehner had led the Republicans into the House majority in 2010 by vowing to let the House work its will.
"This is a perfect example of his not doing what he said he would do. Because it would pass."
Hoyer was playing off of recent comments from Boehner, who last week churned headlines when he told a local Ohio Rotary Club chapter that many of his colleagues “take the path of least resistance” rather than taking on difficult issues like overhauling the nation's immigration system.
"Here's the attitude. 'Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,' ” Boehner said in a mockingly high-pitched voice.
"We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems," the Speaker added. "And it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to."
The comments led to sharp criticism from some conservatives, and Boehner on Tuesday walked back his remarks, telling his Republican conference during a closed-door meeting that he'd been joking. The reason he's been reluctant to take up immigration reform is not conservative resistance, he added, but a distrust in President Obama to implement such a law.
“There was no mocking,” Boehner said after the meeting. “You all know me. You tease the ones you love, all right? But some people misunderstood what I had to say, and I wanted to make sure members understood that the biggest impediment we have to moving immigration reform is that the American people don’t trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass."
Democrats aren't buying the argument. They're quick to note that Boehner and other GOP leaders had unveiled a series of immigration "principles" at the start of the year designed to ease conservative concerns and guide a reform bill through the House. Instead, conservatives revolted and Boehner was forced to shelve the issue.
The Democrats have been encouraged by recent comments from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), a member of the House GOP leadership, who last week told a local newspaper that "there is a path that we get a bill by August.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, highlighted those remarks Tuesday in urging Boehner to act quickly.
"Mr. Speaker, it's time to stop taking the path of least resistance, to heed the call of your own Republican leadership colleague … and give us a vote," Becerra said during a press briefing after a closed-door caucus meeting in the Capitol.
"I believe that before the year is out we will have done something significant, simply because I think the Republican leadership understands that this will overwhelm them," Becerra added. "They cannot stop this tide."