Boehner faces backlash on immigration overture

House Speaker John A. Boehner’s overture to Democrats and President Obama on immigration reform is already drawing fire from within the GOP, where lawmakers say he’s writing checks that his fellow House Republicans won’t cash for him.

“I’m concerned that Speaker Boehner is getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a ‘comprehensive approach’ to immigration taken care of ‘once and for all,’” Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican, said in a statement late Thursday, telling Mr. Boehner to “pull back” on his comments.

In an interview with ABC on Thursday, two days after his party saw Hispanics vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, Mr. Boehner said the time had come to address immigration.

“This issue has been around far too long and while I believe it’s important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all,” he said.

His use of the word “comprehensive” set off alarm bells within the GOP, since that is the term immigrant-rights advocates use for legislation that would legalize most of the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S., as well as rewrite the legal immigration system.

A number of prominent conservatives have said the election should prompt a rethink of the GOP’s stance on immigration. Radio show host Sean Hannity said Thursday that he now supports a pathway to citizenship, and columnist Charles Krauthammer said Republicans should unapologetically embrace amnesty.

“Yes — amnesty. Use the word,” Mr. Krauthammer wrote Thursday in his election analysis.

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and vice chairman of the House subcommittee that handles immigration, took to Twitter to reject that rethink, saying the GOP shouldn’t get into a bidding war with Democrats to try to buy Hispanics’ allegiance, because they will never bid high enough.

“Obama voters chose dependency over Liberty. Now establishment R’s want citizenship for illegals. You can’t beat Santa Claus with amnesty,” Mr. Kind tweeted Thursday evening.

Friday morning, at his weekly press conference, Mr. Boehner clarified his intentions on the issue.

“I’m not talking about a 3,000-page bill,” he said. “What I’m talking about is a common-sense, step-by-step approach that secures our borders, allows us to enforce our laws and fix our broken immigration system.”

He also repeatedly demanded that President Obama take the lead on the issue.

But he declined to say whether he would push the House to accept a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or what else would be on the table specifically.

“I’m not going to get into any details of how you would get there, it’s just time to get the job done,” he said.

Mr. Boehner also saw criticism for saying he was open to “new revenue” as a way to close the deficit.

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