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Boehner talks Obamacare, immigration, legacy

Boehner talks Obamacare, immigration, legacy
Mgn Online
Sunday, July 21, 2013 - 3:43pm

House Speaker John Boehner vowed Republicans would continue to keep trying to put the brakes on Obamacare, saying the president's sweeping health care reform is "not good for the country."

In a wide-ranging interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," Boehner also refused to say whether or not he would support immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and further weighed in on what he hopes to be his legacy.

On health care, a debate shaping up to be a dominant issue in the 2014 midterm elections, Boehner said Americans can expect to see House Republicans staying on the offensive to take down the president's signature first-term accomplishment.

"The program isn't ready. This is not ready for prime time," Boehner said in the interview that aired Sunday. "And we're going to stay at it."

House Republicans passed two bills last week delaying key provisions in Obamacare, marking nearly 40 times that the GOP-controlled House has attempted to repeal or roll back parts of the law.

One measure delayed for one year the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance, something the Obama administration already announced it was doing earlier this month.

The other bill postponed for one year the mandate that individuals sign up for health care coverage. Republicans argue it's unfair for the White House to give businesses a reprieve, but still require individuals to comply with the mandate or face a penalty.

The speaker said Sunday that Republicans in the House have no intention of letting up.

"You're going to see a lot more of it. And you're going to see bipartisan votes coming out of the House to begin to derail this thing," he said, urging Senate Majority Harry Reid to put both bills on the Senate floor, a move unlikely to happen in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

Asked how he feels about presiding over one of the least productive Congresses in history, Boehner said his job isn't about creating laws.

"We should not be judged by how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We've got more laws than the administration could ever enforce," he said. "Unpopular? Yes. Why? We're in a divided government. We're fighting for what we believe in. Sometimes the American people don't like this mess."

On another policy front, Boehner repeatedly declined to state his personal opinion on whether immigration reform should include a pathway to citizenship, a controversial provision opposed by many conservative Republicans.

"I believe that we have to deal with it," Boehner said, referring to immigration reform. But as members in the House negotiate and craft their own legislation, rather than taking up the version passed by the Senate last month, Boehner said it will make it more difficult to get a bill passed if he takes a hard position.

"If I come out and say, 'I'm for this and I'm for that,' all I'm doing is making my job harder," he said.

Boehner, who took over the speakership after the 2010 midterm elections, said his role as leader demands that he manage and facilitate conversations, not push ahead with his own agenda.

"The House should be allowed to work its will," he said. "Yeah, I've got certain things that I'd like to see accomplished. But this is not going to be about me."

Asked how he wants to be remembered, Boehner was prepared with an answer: "He was fair to all and protected the institution."

"When you look at my job, there's one person responsible for the institution of the House," he continued. "And that falls into my lap. It's my No. 1 responsibility. But in addition to that, I actually do believe that opening up the process, allowing committees to do their work, bringing bills through committee, and a more fair and open process on the floor, will begin to heal this institution.

"There's partisan scar tissue all over this place. But the more that I can open it up and allow members to work together, over time that partisan scar tissue will begin to melt and go away. It's a long-term proposition, but I'm committed to it." 

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