Speaker faces conservative backlash over call for immigration reform

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWarren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Principles to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats MORE (R-Ohio) could be facing a civil war within his party over immigration policy after conservative members of the GOP conference took issue with his call for “comprehensive" reform.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWarren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Principles to unify America Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats MORE on Friday wouldn’t offer any additional details on how he would accomplish such a massive policy change.

“I’m not going to get into any of the details of how you would get there — it’s just time to get the job done," he told reporters at a press conference at the Capitol.


Boehner told ABC News on Thursday that the issue of immigration reform “has been around far too long … a comprehensive approach is long overdue.”

He added that "I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."

But several conservative lawmakers took issue with the Speaker's words.

On Friday morning, Louisiana Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingTrump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Iran strikes US bases in Iraq; Trump to speak today MORE (R) issued a statement urging Boehner to “talk with House Republicans before making pledges on the national news.”

Fleming said “I’m concerned that Speaker Boehner is getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a ‘comprehensive approach’ to immigration taken care of ‘once and for all.’ There’s been zero discussion of this issue within the conference.”

And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most conservative members of the GOP conference, slammed Republicans for considering citizenship for illegal immigrants.

"Obama voters chose dependency over Liberty. Now establishment R's want citizenship for illegals. You can't beat Santa Claus with amnesty," he tweeted on Friday.

But Boehner denied to The Hill that members of his conference had discussed their concerns with him, noting that he did not make any “pledges” of policy prescriptions in the ABC interview.

Boehner said that he was “not talking about a 3,000 page bill,” but “talking about a step by step common sense approach to secure our borders allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system.”

Immigration reform has been a controversial issue within the Republican Party. The conservative wing of the GOP has made clear they believe any type of policy that allows illegals to remain in the country to be "amnesty," which they object to.

Other Republicans offered their support to the Speaker.

"I agree with the calls for comprehensive immigration reform," Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain, Kristol battle over Tanden nomination Biden's favorability rating rises while Trump's slips: Gallup The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread MORE (R-Ariz.) tweeted on Friday.

And conservative commentator Sean Hannity said Thursday night he has "evolved" on the issue.

"There is a fundamental shift going on. We've got to look at some of these demographics. You've got to look at what young voters are saying. The Hispanic vote went 70 percent Democrat," he said.

President Obama overwhelmingly won Hispanic voters in Tuesday's election, which helped return him to the White House.

It will be very difficult for Boehner to move much of his conference on immigration. In 2010, the Democratic-controlled House passed a scaled back immigration bill titled the DREAM Act, 216-198. One-hundred sixty Republicans voted against it while only eight GOP lawmakers voted for it. Of those eight, only two still serve in the House: Florida Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.