Republicans in the House of Representatives, whose ranks swelled as a result of last November’s elections, have gotten off to a clumsy start this year, House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday, as legislative initiatives have been derailed by attacks from inside the party.
“There have been a couple of stumbles,” Boehner told reporters after meeting in a closed session with his rank-and-file.
The latest Republican casualty was a border security bill aimed at demonstrating a tough law-and-order approach toward stopping illegal immigration, mostly along the southern border with Mexico.
The bill had been scheduled for House debate on Wednesday but was canceled due to a massive East Coast snow storm, according to a Republican leadership announcement on Monday.
But conservatives were bucking the bill, claiming it would do nothing to deport undocumented immigrants who manage to get over the border, leading some to wonder whether the votes existed among Republicans to win passage.
“A growing body of people are sick and tired of the ‘trust me we’ll do it later’ approach,” said Republican Representative Matthew Salmon of Arizona, “and want us to deal with both interior enforcement and border security at the same time.”
The legislation could resurface in coming weeks, however.
One week ago, Boehner suffered a setback over an abortion bill that had been scheduled for House action. That time, it was more moderate Republicans, including some female lawmakers, who objected to the bill’s provisions on abortions for victims of rape.
From the first day of the new Congress on Jan. 6, Boehner’s conservative wing was restive, with 25 of them refusing to back his election to a third term as Speaker and resulting in a narrow victory for the nation’s top-elected Republican.
On Tuesday, Boehner explained the legislative setbacks as an effort to get off to a fast start. It was, he said, “all in our effort to show the American people that we are here to listen to their priorities.”
Republican Representative Pete Sessions, who chairs the powerful House Rules Committee that is controlled by Boehner, told reporters that leadership is taking a breather on the border security bill to give members more time to understand how immigration issues will be tackled this year.
The bill, Sessions added, “was well understood until it got confusing.”
(Reporting By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)