Boehner contracts amnesia: Speaker completely forgets a whole year!

Speaker isn't distracting from his failed efforts at immigration reform. He's just pretending it never happened

By Jim Newell
August 11, 2014 4:30PM (UTC)
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(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Did you know that John Boehner is remarkably adept at standing up to his political base to do the right thing even if it's hard for him? Or that Boehner really wants to pursue a solution to the United States immigration system through legislation but Barack Obama is insisting on doing so himself? These are the assumptions that underlay the latest Op-Ed column about John Boehner. The author of the column about John Boehner is John Boehner, the speaker of the House, and it's called "Do Your Job, Mr. President." Can everyone who sucks at their own job in Washington stop telling other people to do their job? In other words, can everyone in Washington stop telling other people to do their job?

Let's run through some recent history with regards to John Boehner. Earlier this summer he decided that his chamber would not pursue, or hold any votes on, immigration reform. (Eventually the House did vote on a border-related supplemental, but Boehner made that extremely clear that it was narrowly tailored to the emergency situation on the border -- not an "immigration reform" bill, as that would open it up to a conference with the Senate's Gang of Eight immigration legislation.) Boehner and his leadership team decided to abandon immigration reform efforts because doing so would have been unpopular within the House Republican conference and among many Republican voters, and would have threatened Boehner's speakership. In other words, he did so because of politics. Which, hey, do what you've got to do (or not do), but don't pretend it's anything other than that.


So it's somewhat surprising that in imploring Obama to do his job, Boehner writes this, emphasis ours:

“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken’s famous saying sums up exactly the choice that President Obama now faces on immigration and tax reform. On both issues, he should resist the siren song of political expediency and stand up to his political base to do the right thing – even though it will be harder.

Further evidence mounts later on that Boehner has, indeed, completely forgotten that he is John Boehner and the guy who gave up on even attempting votes on immigration reform but a couple of months ago:

Now, consistent news leaks from the White House suggest the president is poised to repeat that mistake – and make it far worse – by rewriting the law again and dramatically expanding his unilateral action.

That would be a grievous mistake. Immigration is a tough issue, and the situation at the border has made it even more fraught and complex. We need to fix our broken immigration system, but it must be done by Congress, and it must be done in a common-sense, step-by-step fashion so that the American people have a say in what we are doing. We can only succeed if the people understand and support these reforms.

Jesus. Taking up comprehensive reform, taking up the piecemeal approach to comprehensive form -- either way, Boehner didn't do it. He didn't have to, and so he didn't. He's not even arguing against Obama's upcoming executive action on legal or constitutional grounds, as he usually does. He's just saying that Obama should wait for Congress to act, instead. As if the House hadn't already considered doing so and declined.


Boehner appears to be judging that the 1.5 months since the House officially abandoned immigration reform represent an adequate length of time passed to pretend that the House never got a chance to consider doing anything about immigration. That the House would really like to do something, but Obama doesn't want them to and would prefer to just do all sorts of stuff on his own.

This is some next-level stuff from Boehner. No longer is the strategy about distracting people from noticing that he gave up on immigration reform out of political cowardice; now it's about pretending that the year-long debate about whether or not to take on immigration reform never happened, and Obama is being Imperial out of a penchant for being Imperial. Nice trick! Might work, sadly.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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