In his first press conference since Republicans won the Senate and captured their largest House majority in decades, House Speaker John Boehner laid out an agenda that included authorizing the Keystone pipeline, addressing a “broken” tax code and repealing the president’s signature healthcare law.
“The House, I’m sure at some point next year, will move to repeal Obamacare,” he said. “Now, whether that can pass in the Senate, I don’t know. But I know in the House it will pass.”
Boehner softened his tone somewhat, adding that there are some healthcare reforms that have bipartisan support, including repealing the medical device tax and altering the definition of a full-time worker from 30 to 40 hours a week.
But Democrats are skeptical that Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will restore comity in Congress next year, as they have promised to do.
“Sen. McConnell is already letting [Texas Republican] Sen. [Ted] Cruz set the agenda,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid press secretary Adam Jentleson, on Thursday, linking to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by McConnell and Boehner in which the Republicans repeated their commitment to repealing Obamacare.
Republicans counter that it is the President who is eschewing a post-election detente by insisting on taking unilateral action on immigration reform. In the absence of a comprehensive reform bill, Obama has signaled that he will not wait for Congress to move on the issue, and the President is widely expected to defer deportations of potentially millions of undocumented workers.
“When you play with matches you take the risk of burning yourself,” said Boehner of the potential executive action. “And he is going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”
There are few options that House Republicans have to respond to such an executive order. Boehner warned Obama that if he acts on his own “there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress”—a very unlikely prospect already.
The larger danger for Obama, as he seeks even small accomplishments to bolster his legacy in his final years, is that Republican anger over a unilateral move on immigration could make it harder for Boehner and McConnell to compromise on other issues.