House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday refused to say publicly whether he would pass legislation to defund President Barack Obama's immigration action, which could allow millions of illegal immigrants to gain legal protections and get work permits.
Boehner outlined his plan to pass a spending bill next week that funds the entire government for the rest of fiscal year 2015, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would oversee Obama's immigration plans. DHS is expected to be funded for a few months, which will let a Republican-led House and Senate revisit the issue early next year.
But when asked if Boehner would push for legislation early next year that defunds Obama's immigration move, Boehner declined to say.
"There are lots of options on the table, and I'm not going to get into hypotheticals of what we could and couldn't do," he said. "But I do know this. Come January, we'll have a Republican House and a Republican Senate, and we'll be in a stronger position to take actions."
Boehner was then asked if he'd be willing to risk DHS funding next year by pushing a bill that defunds Obama's action, but Boehner again declined to answer.
"As I've made clear, we have limited options in terms of how we can deal with this," he said. "But there are options out there, and we're going to continue to pursue those options."
Boehner's answers are likely to raise even more concern among conservative Republicans, who want a guarantee that GOP leaders will fight as hard as they can to stop Obama's immigration plan. Many Republicans want defunding language in the spending bill that comes up next week, but they seem unlikely to win that fight, and Boehner said today that the government should be funded, and the immigration fight should wait until next year, when Republicans run the Senate.
"Next week, the House will work to keep the government open while keeping our leverage so that when we have reinforcements in the Senate, we're in the strongest position to take additional actions to fight the president's unilateral actions," he said.
While some Republicans have complained that Boehner's strategy gives away too much to Obama, Boehner said it was developed in close consultation with all GOP members, including those who want to see tougher steps.
"We think this is the most practical way to fight the president's action, and frankly, we listened to our members," he said. "And we listened to some members who have frankly been griping the most. This was their idea of how to proceed."
Boehner's strategy has led some to predict that dozens of Republicans might vote against the spending bill when it comes up next week, if it's devoid of any language to rein in Obama's immigration actions. But a "clean" spending bill would likely attract Democratic votes anyway, and Boehner said he expected a bipartisan vote.
By the end of the day Thursday, the House is expected to have passed a stand-alone bill aimed at nullifying Obama's action. Boehner called on the Democratic Senate to consider the same bill in the coming days.
"The United States Senate should take this bill up and pass it," he said. "For the outgoing Senate Democrat majority to do anything less would be an act of monumental arrogance."
But Democrats won't take it up, which one Republican said makes the bill the equivalent of a "resolution of disagreement with the president."
Even if the Senate were to pass it somehow, the White House said Obama would veto it. "The bill's objective is clearly to nullify and block implementation of these executive actions, which would have devastating consequences," the White House said. "It would lead to the separation of families and prevent additional DREAMers from fully contributing to American life."