Heritage Action: Boehner picks fight to clear way for immigration

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is picking a fight with outside conservative groups to clear the way for immigration reform, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham charged on Friday.

“The Speaker is trying to turn this into a boring fight between outside groups and himself so we are not having a policy debate about whether or not this is a good deal,” Needham said of the budget deal approve by the House on Thursday.

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He said Boehner wanted to divert attention from the substance of the two-year budget deal by picking the fight.

"This deal increases spending, this deal increases taxes. And that is bad for the county and that is what we want to be focused on," Needham added in an interview on MSNBC. "The Speaker also wants to clear the way for immigration reform next year.” 

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel defended the budget deal and said it has "nothing to do" with immigration.

"The agreement does not increase spending or taxes — in fact, it reduces the deficit — and has nothing to do with the need to fix our broken immigration system," Steel said.

Heritage and other conservative groups harshly criticized the budget bill. The groups also “key-voted” the bill, meaning votes in favor of the legislation will be negatively scored.

Despite the pressure, most Republicans in the House supported the measure, handing Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who drew up the deal, a significant victory.

During a press conference Thursday, Boehner said outside groups had lost credibility by coming out against the deal before the final details had been released. 

He also said they had little credibility because their pressure to tie the defunding of the healthcare law to a government funding bill had led to a government shutdown earlier this year.

The shutdown fight badly hurt Republicans, according to polls at the time. The party has made a comeback since the shutdown ended, partly because of the political focus on the healthcare law's troubled rollout.

Boehner also took a shot specifically at Needham, referring to the conservative strategy that led to the government shutdown in October. 

“But if you'll recall the day before the government reopened, one of the people — one of these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work. Are you kidding me?” Boehner said.

Needham gave a Fox News interview in October where he said it was obvious that Republicans would not be able to repeal ObamaCare until President Obama was out of office.  

On Friday, Needham shot back at Boehner’s criticism.

“The Speaker is being absurd,” said Needham, who drew a distinction between the full repeal of ObamaCare and the delay or defunding of the law, which his group had been pushing.  

“If I thought we could repeal ObamaCare I would have spent the month of August on a 'repeal ObamaCare' tour. We spent it on a defund tour,” he said.

Needham compared his group to companies like iTunes and Napster, which upended the music industry.  

“I think we are the iTunes of politics,” He said. “The establishment is very upset with the notion that there are people having conversations with their voters, and I think that is good for Democracy.”   

— This story was updated at 12:38 p.m.