Boehner's GOP Problem Returns

PHOTO: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio
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House Speaker John Boehner is about to begin another attempt at a grand bargain deficit reduction deal with President Obama, a high wire act in which he will be buffeted by demands from the White House as well as from House Republicans.

The difficulty of keeping in step with the hard line approach of his fellow Republicans has been on view since the presidential election.

On Thursday, Boehner told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that repealing Obamacare was no longer his party's most pressing concern, saying, "Obamacare is the law of the land" and the election settled the dispute over repeal.

Shortly after his comment was aired, Boehner put out a tweet saying, "ObamaCare is law of the land, but it is raising costs & threatening jobs. Our goal has been, and will remain, #fullrepeal."

During that interview, the Speaker also told Sawyer that comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority in his legislative agenda during the next Congress. Republicans within his conference, like Rep. John Fleming, were livid.

"I'm concerned that Speaker Boehner is getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a 'comprehensive approach' to immigration taken care of 'once and for all.' There's been zero discussion of this issue within the conference, and I'm urging the Speaker to talk with House Republicans before making pledges on the national news," Fleming, R-La., blasted in a statement. "The Speaker needs to pull back on this issue and stop negotiating in public."

And when Boehner tried last year to negotiate a grand bargain with Obama on the deficit, taxes and entitlements, key members of his party revolted at the notion that Boehner was open to new revenues.

In one of his last news conferences before the election, the Speaker said his failure to strike a grand bargain with the president was "the biggest disappointment of my speakership."

Obama said Friday that new discussions will begin next week when Congress returns to begin the lame duck session.

Boehner, who held a news conference Friday shortly before Obama, was cautious in his comments and offered few details on what he would accept in a deal, other than rejecting the suggestion of raising taxes on the top tier of tax payers.

Instead, he said, "This is an opportunity for the president to lead. This is his moment to engage the Congress and work towards a solution that can pass both chambers."

When pressed on what was the size of deficit reduction package he envisioned, the speaker reiterated that he does not want to limit the scope of negotiations and once again called for Obama to lead.

"I don't want to box myself in. I don't want to box anybody else in," Boehner said.

"I don't want to limit the options that would be available to me or limit the options that might be available to the White House," he said. "There are a lot of ways to get there, and I don't really want to preclude anyone who might have a good idea about how we move forward."

Boehner's immigration comment was also raised at his news conference Friday, but he was non-committal when asked if he was endorsing a pathway to citizenship.

"I'm not talking about a 3,000-page bill," he said. "What I'm talking about is a common-sense, step-by-step approach that would secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws and fix a broken immigration system," he said. "I'm not going to get into any of the details of how you would get there. It's just time to get the job done."

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