WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner told Republican lawmakers Tuesday he was just teasing them when he lampooned their reluctance to act on immigration legislation, insisting that he blames President Barack Obama for inaction on the issue, not the GOP.
"You tease the ones you love, right? But some people misunderstood what I had to say," Boehner told reporters after a closed-door meeting with the House GOP where he offered the explanation. "I can rib people just a little too much sometimes. This wouldn't be the first time."
The comments in question happened at a Rotary Club lunch in Ohio last week when Boehner said Republican House members don't want to take on immigration because it's too difficult. He imitated them whining in high-pitched protest, "'Ohh, don't make me do this ... ohh, this is too hard.'"
Some conservatives took offense, saying Boehner should be keeping the focus on Obama. Some Republicans say it's largely the president's fault that comprehensive immigration legislation, including border security and eventual citizenship for millions, remains stalled in the House 10 months after Senate passage. They say they can't trust Obama because of his record of taking steps by executive action.
Democrats, meanwhile, saw signs of renewed hope for immigration legislation in Boehner's comments blaming the House GOP, though Boehner's aides downplayed any such suggestion.
Asked Tuesday about Boehner's remarks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "I'm glad he's complaining about his members for a change so I don't have to."
In his remarks Tuesday Boehner put the focus back on the president. "I wanted to make sure the members understood that the biggest impediment we have in moving immigration reform is that the American people don't trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass," Boehner said.