Updated and corrected Saturday
House Speaker John A. Boehner delivered the weekly Republican radio address Saturday from a Ohio propeller plant, sticking to his familiar themes of job creation and health-care reform as he called on the Democratic-controlled Senate to take up dozens of bills passed in recent months by the GOP-controlled House.
President Obama’s record is “littered” with promises ranging from an economic stimulus plan to a new health-care law that have not panned out, Boehner charged Saturday as he delivered the Republican response to Obama’s Saturday morning radio address.
It's a forum usually reserved for rank-and-file lawmakers or GOP governors. But with Congress returning to Washington Monday, Boehner touted that the Republican-controlled House remains focused on job creation, which polls suggest remains one of the top concerns of voters this election year.
Dressed in his signature casual red zip-up sweater on the factory floor of a small business in Piqua, Ohio, Boehner said workers there shared sentiments with him that he hears “everywhere” -- that “we need to get the federal government out of the way.”
Boehner's remarks Saturday said nothing about immigration -- even though he surprised an Ohio crowd -- as well as reporters covering the issue on Thursday by openly mocking House Republicans who have told him they don't want to take up immigration reform during an election year. Congress and President Obama need to tackle the issue, Boehner said, but he didn't set a firm time table or commit that the House will vote on immigration anytime soon.
Despite that bit of theatrics, Boehner's message on immigration this year has been consistent: That the House may one day act independently of the Senate but won't seriously engage on the subject until his colleagues reach a level of trust with Obama, who they say has openly disregarded federal law in an attempt to advance his political agenda.
Further proof that the House won't take up immigration anytime soon came last week after Obama openly criticized House Republicans for not allowing votes on immigration bills. After doing so, Obama phoned House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) -- the man who actually controls the House schedule -- and made a direct plea. But Cantor lashed out, saying in a statement that the president had only called "after he issued a partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together."
Cantor has previously signaled a willingness to work on elements of the immigration issue, but never spoken out as boldly as Boehner, who has said several times in recent months that he personally believes that Congress and the GOP need to act. But Boehner has also said several times -- most notably during an interview with Jay Leno -- that "a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk."
That's the attitude he took during last year's government shutdown and it's the same approach he's taking with immigration. In the fall, he urged his colleagues to avoid plunging the federal government into a partial government shutdown. Rank-and-file Republicans heard him out, but disagreed and Boehner heard them, so he re-calibrated. Republicans were badly bruised following the government shutdown as Boehner told them they would be.
A similar political dynamic for Republicans might eventually play out on immigration. For now, Boehner is concerned about maintaining and expanding the GOP majority in the House and in keeping his job as speaker. He needs to keep his conference focused on subjects popular with their base and away from areas that might stir up political controversy. And he needs to keep his colleagues happy in the event he decides to stay on as speaker.
Add it up and you get a simple conclusion: Immigration reform ain't happening between now and November.