House Speaker John Boehner suggested today—both privately to his own caucus and publicly to reporters afterward—that he's unwilling to let an immigration bill come up for a vote in the lower chamber without the support of a majority of his fellow Republicans. Assuming he's not bluffing, that stance will make it mighty difficult, and maybe even impossible, for a deal to get done between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The New York Times has the on-the-record quote:
"I also suggested to our members today that any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a majority of both parties’ support if we’re really serious about making that happen, and so I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans," Mr. Boehner said at a news conference after meeting with House Republicans.
And Politico snags the behind-closed-doors paraphrase:
"Let me be clear," Boehner said, according to a source in the closed GOP meeting, "Immigration is not one of these scenarios. We have plenty of leverage. And I have no intention of putting a bill on the floor that will violate the principles of our majority and divide our conference. One of our principles is border security. I have no intention of putting a bill on the floor that the people in this room do not believe secures our borders. It’s not gonna happen."
Boehner's comments come as his rank-and-file have become increasingly vocal about their unhappiness with his past decisions to break the so-called "Hastert rule," the unofficial principal where a speaker refuses to allow a vote on a bill that doesn't have the backing of the majority of his own caucus. Boehner has already broken that rule a handful of times this year, including to provide Hurricane Sandy relief and pass the Violence Against Women Act. Asked after today's meeting if he felt he could lose his job if he violated the unofficial rule this time, Boehner conceded: "Maybe."
It's hard to imagine an immigration bill that could win the support of both a majority of Democrats in the Senate, and a majority of Republicans in the House. In order for the bulk of the House GOP to sign on to the effort, the package would likely need to contain several border security requirements and limits on attaining legal status that are deal-breakers for many Democrats and their allies. That said, Boehner did the leave the door open just a bit to the idea that the House and Senate could pass their own bills and then hammer out a deal in conference. Asked if he'd need a majority of House Republicans to support that potential compromise package, Boehner said only, "We’ll see when we get there."