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Did John Boehner Just Wave the White Flag on Immigration?


"...we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly..."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated on Tuesday that he's not willing to risk a government shutdown in the GOP's fight with Democrats over President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, by saying Republicans have "limited options" when it comes to pushing back against Obama, and by and noting that Senate Democrats would likely reject an aggressive House bill.

In a meeting with Republicans Tuesday morning, he offered a plan that would do nothing to stop Obama's immigration move, and instead called for passage of a bill that would express the House's opposition, but would likely go no where in the Senate.

"Frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly," Boehner said after meeting with Republicans. "But that's why we're continuing to talk to members. We have not made decisions about how we're going to proceed, but we are in fact going to proceed."

Boehner also said he thinks Republicans understand that "it's doing to be difficult to take meaningful action as long as we've got Democrat control in the Senate."

One option that many conservative opponents of Obama's immigration move want to see is language that prevents the government from spending money to implement Obama's plans. They want that language attached to legislation that's required to keep the government funded after Dec. 11.

While Senate Democrats would almost certainly reject those sorts of proposals, many Republicans have been hoping the House would at least test the waters by sending something over and forcing the Senate to object.

But there was no sign of that proposal today, and Boehner's comments signaled that he is unwilling to employ a brinksmanship strategy that could lead to delays in funding the government. Boehner has said before that Republicans don't want to shut the government down, and GOP leaders are known to be wary that they would be blamed for a shutdown.

In an attempt to balance the need to fund the government but address Republican anger over Obama's immigration move, Boehner proposed a plan that is likely to fall far short of what many conservatives are demanding.

That plan would have the House pass legislation that says Obama has no authority to exempt whole categories of people from deportation. While Boehner said nothing has been decided, a vote on that bill, from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), could still take place this week.

After that, Boehner proposed passing a spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year for every federal agency except the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that deal with immigration — those agencies would only be funded for the next few months. Many Republicans have said putting DHS on a shorter leash would give Republicans the ability to respond again on immigration early next year.

But some say even a short-term spending bill for DHS makes no sense if it funds Obama's immigration action in the meantime. Earlier in the day, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a vocal opponent of Obama's immigration action, said a funding limitation has to be included in any spending bill, of any length.

Boehner indicated that Republicans would be in a better position to act next year, when Republicans control both the House and Senate. But many Republicans have warned that funding Obama's action even for just a short time would make it much harder to take stronger steps next year.

— This story was updated to correct information about the Yoho legislation.

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