WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner refused on Sunday to say whether a comprehensive immigration overhaul should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, declaring that the House debate is “not about me.”
Boehner, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” dodged repeated attempts to get him to spell out his personal views on a path to citizenship for up to 11 million illegal immigrants now in the United States, a major point of contention between the House and the Democratic-led Senate.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about what I want,” said Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “This about allowing the House to work its will.”
The Senate has passed a sweeping, bipartisan immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, which Republican opponents have called an “amnesty” that would reward lawbreakers and attract more illegal immigrants.
Boehner said taking a personal stand on the issue would make it harder for him to find consensus on immigration in the House.
“If I come out and say, ‘I’m for this and I’m for that,’ all I’m doing is making my job harder,” Boehner said. “My job in this process is to facilitate a discussion and to facilitate a process.”
Boehner said the sweeping Senate bill would not pass the House and reiterated that the House would tackle the issue in smaller “chunks” that would include stricter provisions on border protection.
“We want to deal with this in chunks, chunks that the members can deal with and grapple with, and frankly chunks that the American people can get their arms around,” he said.
With polls showing public approval of Congress at near record lows, Boehner was asked how he felt to have presided over the least productive and one of the least popular Congresses.
“We should not be judged by how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal,” Boehner said.
Republicans have made repeal of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul one of the party’s top priorities.
Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Christopher Wilson