WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's policy change on immigration makes it less likely that Congress will be able to reach a bipartisan, final solution on the matter -- a curious claim given that Boehner snuffed out that possibility months ago.
"It puts everyone in a difficult position," Boehner said of Obama's policy change, during a scrum with reporters. "I think we all have concerns for those who are caught in this trap, who through no fault of their own are here. But the president's actions are going to make it much more difficult for us to work in a bipartisan way to get to a permanent solution."
Under the change, which took effect immediately, the administration will no longer deport undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and will begin granting work permits. The policy is along the same lines as the Dream Act, a decade-old bill that previously passed the House but failed in the Senate in 2010. Some 800,000 people are expected to come forward to receive deferred action from deportation.
Boehner's charge that Obama's move means less chance for bipartisanship in moving Dream Act legislation comes after he already quashed the idea that a Dream Act-type proposal offered by someone in his own party, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), could advance.
"The problem with this issue is that we're operating in a very hostile political environment," Boehner said in April. "To deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best."
The broader issue, though, is that Republicans have stood in the way of advancing immigration reform. Senate Republicans who previously signed on to immigration reform bills have backed away since Obama took office, and in the House, Boehner himself has chalked up Democratic efforts to build momentum on the issue as little more than politics.
Boehner said in April 2010 that an effort by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to build GOP support for an immigration bill was "nothing more than a cynical ploy to try to engage voters -- some segment of voters -- to show up in this November's elections." At the same event, Boehner said there wasn't "a chance" that Congress could tackle the issue that year and, because of Americans' focus on job creation, coming up with a solution for addressing the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country is "not where the American people are."
House and Senate Republican leaders have been virtually silent since Obama announced the immigration directive on Friday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to take questions on the subject during a speaking event that same day. The president's move has put them, along with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in the tough position of either angering their conservative base by supporting it or alienating Latino voters by opposing it.
On Tuesday, the speaker took a shot at Obama for not putting forward a broader immigration reform proposal of his own and for not working with Congress on the issue.
"There is no plan," he said. "Three and a half years he's been in office. He talks about this but there is no plan. Secondly, was there any attempt to work with the Congress? No, there was not."
The reality, though, is that Obama threw his support behind a reform framework agreed to in July 2010 by Sens. Schumer and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). That proposal, which mirrored a House bill with 100 Democratic cosponsors, would have allowed undocumented immigrants who have jobs, are in school or serve in the U.S. military to "earn legalization" by registering with the government, passing background checks, learning English and paying taxes and fees.
That bill never advanced, however, because it did not pick up Republican supporters.
Boehner also said the real reason Obama announced the immigration policy change is because he wants to take attention away from his record on job creation.
"He can't talk about the number one issue on the minds of Americans because his policies have failed. They've made things worse," he said. "He's turned to the politics of envy and division, which I don't think the American people are going to accept."
But a Bloomberg poll released Tuesday shows that a majority of Americans endorse the president's action. Sixty-four percent of likely voters said they agreed with Obama's effort to halt deportation of young undocumented immigrants. Broken down by party, 86 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents backed the decision, while 56 percent of Republicans did not.
Below, more reactions to Obama's immigration decision from around the political world:
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