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Boehner Declines to Take Hard Stance on Immigration

Speaker John A. Boehner refused to predict what the House’s immigration legislation would look like, saying it would only make the process more difficult if he took “a hard position.”

In an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the Ohio Republican declined to say whether he supported legislation that would facilitate a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“I’m not going to predict what’s going to be on the floor and what isn’t going to be on the floor, and that’s what you’re asking me to do. I can’t do that, and I don’t want to do that,” Boehner told the show’s host, Bob Schieffer. “What I committed to when I became speaker was to a more open and fair process. And as difficult as this issue is, me taking a hard position for or against some of these issues will make it harder for us to get a bill.”

Boehner has said repeatedly the House will “work its will” on immigration reform and every other major issue that comes before the chamber, from the debt limit to the budget blueprint.

“It’s not about me,” he said in his interview.

Along the way, however, his leadership style been criticized by Democrats for allowing his conference to be “hijacked” by a sizable faction of tea-party-inspired Republicans elected to the House in droves during the past two election cycles. And those are the members who might threaten the chances of an immigration overhaul’s passage, considering many of them have said they won’t support an immigration overhaul bill at all or that stronger border-control mechanisms should come before any pathway to legalization.

Boehner has also made the case for border security. However, he has been vague about what he means.

Boehner defended the dozens of votes House leaders have held to repeal all or parts of Obamacare, saying that if the president’s health care law were workable, the administration would not be delaying implementation of a key employer mandate.

And Boehner defended his approach as the top Republican in Congress and the most powerful member of the House.

“I’ve watched a number of speakers during my tenure here in Congress,” he said, “and I can talk about what happened just before I became speaker. All the bills were written in the speaker’s office. Those bills all turned out to be very unpopular.

“Yeah, I’ve got certain things that I’d like to see accomplished, but this is not going to be about me,” he continued. “If we’re listening to the American people and we’re following their will, our House will work just fine.”

He also downplayed criticism that, under his leadership, the House has become more polarized and has contributed broadly to the most dysfunctional Congress in modern history.

“We’re fighting for what we believe in,” Boehner said, attributing Congress’ low approval ratings on “divided government” rather than the House’s job performance. “Sometimes the American People don’t like the mess.”