Transcript: House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks on immigration reform

Partial transcript of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) remarks on immigration reform and the debt ceiling. The press conference was held on Feb. 6, 2014:

Morning everyone. You know, I travel around the country a lot, run into people in all corners of America and all types. And everywhere I go, people are wondering why there’s less opportunity today than there used to be.

Well, I think this week, we got a report from the Congressional Budget Office that reminded us of one big reason and that’s the President’s health care law.

Under the law, people will work less. And under its employer mandate, wages will be lower. And in the end, the law’s going to drive 2.5 million full-time workers out of the economy. Just like that. Gone.

You know, in the White House, their response is, you know, they made a joke out of it. Come on! That’s the attitude that’s produced the worst economic record in American history. And it’s more proof that the law must go.

Now, while that may take a new President, there are things that we can do to get the economy growing again and back on track.

We can start by expanding markets for American companies to export their products and their services. That would be good for American jobs, and the Republican and the President agree on this.

Listen, trade promotion authority is ready to go. So why isn’t it done? It isn’t done because the President hasn’t lifted a finger to get Democrats in Congress to support it. And with jobs on the line, the President needs to pick up his phone and call his own party so that we can get this done.

He can also pick up his pen and finally approve the Keystone Pipeline. Last week, the State Department produced yet another report showing what we already knew that there’s no reason scientific or otherwise to block this project any longer.

But once again because some of the President’s friends don’t like the idea of the pipeline and the tens of thousands of jobs that would be created, it’s not going to happen.

That brings me to my final point – immigration.

You all know through the last 15 months, I’ve talked about the need to get immigration reform done. This is an important issue in our country. It’s been kicked around forever. And it needs to be dealt with.

Having said that, we outlined our principles last week to our members. Principles that our members by and large support. It was put together by the leadership team and they believe it.

But I’ve never underestimated the difficulty in moving forward this year.

And the reason I said that we need a step-by-step common sense approach to this is that so we can build trust with the American people that we’re doing this the right way.

And frankly, one of the biggest obstacles we face is the one of trust.

The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reforms that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be.

The President seems to change the health care law on a whim, whenever he liked. Now, he’s running around the country, telling everyone that he’s going to keep acting on his own. Keeps talking about his phone and his pen, and he’s feeding more distrust about whether he’s committed to the rule of law.

Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.

…The concerns of your conference on immigration. Some of them concerns about how the administration…[incomprehensible audio] But do you see any reason despite how hard it is – any reason why you would pedal back from your attempt to try to move immigration reform this year? Is that still your goal? To be clear, that you’re going to try to move some pieces of immigration…?

John Boehner:
We’re going to continue to discuss this issue with our members. But I think the President’s going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as is written.

Is that the predicate that you have that there be some trust in him? Because talking about this with your members is different than moving ahead with a couple of bills on the floor?

John Boehner:
Yes it is. And understand something – the President’s asking us to move one of the biggest bills of his presidency and, yet, he’s shown very little willingness to work with us on the smallest of things.

You know, last week, we sent a letter to the President outlining four bills that he talked about in the State of the Union. They’re sitting in the United States Senate. Whether it’s the Skills Act or the research bill, a couple of other bills, the President can reach out and work with us on those and begin a process of rebuilding the trust between the American people and his presidency.

[Inaudible]…Is this legislation stalled until you see something in particular from the President and what would that be?

John Boehner:
As I said, we’re going to continue to talk about this with our members, but the President’s going to have to rebuild the trust that the American people and my colleagues can trust him to enforce the law the way it was written.

…If any proposal on the debt ceiling…after this week…[inaudible]?

John Boehner:
Well, we’re still looking for the pieces to this puzzle. But listen, we do not want to default on our debt. We’re not going to default on our debt. We’re in discussion with members about how we can move ahead. We’ve got time to do this. We’re going to continue to work at it. No decisions – no decisions have been made.

…[inaudible] Clean debt ceiling bill?

John Boehner:
We’re continuing to talk to our members.

There’s been reports that you offered to try to put forward approval of the Keystone Pipeline to the extension of the debt limit…[Inaudible]

John Boehner:
You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now. But you know, if the Congress wanted to make her a saint and attached that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 Republican votes. [Laughter]

On the trade bill…[inaudible]

John Boehner:
We need Democratic support in order to pass it. We’ve had…broad support in our caucus, but I don’t think we’ve got 218 votes for this. So the President’s going to have to – he’s going to have to produce some votes.

Mr. Speaker, when Secretary Lew said late February the debt limit has to be raised, what do you think the effective date actually is and by what point does the House actually have to act on something.

John Boehner:
Before late February.

Listen, I think…if that’s what he says it is, that’s what it is.

…The prospects for immigration legislation, trade legislation, health care legislation appear to be dim and perhaps even dimmer. What is Congress going to do this year?

John Boehner:
Well, we’ve got a lot of things on our plate. I think getting the SGR [Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate or “doc fix”] extended through the balance of the year or hopefully getting a permanent fix to that would be very helpful.

You know, we’ve got issues with the flood insurance we’re going to have to deal with…

But I do believe issues like our version of how we would fix the health care insurance system is an important issue. Tax reform continues to be an important issue.

But let me just reiterate one point. I have made clear for 15 months the need for the Congress and the administration to work together on the issue of immigration reform. It needs to get done.

I’m going to continue to talk to my members about how to move forward, but the President is going to have to do his part as well.


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