Boehner Says He Can't Take a Stand on the Issues Because It Makes His Job Harder

Susan Jones | July 22, 2013 | 6:08am EDT
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In this Friday, July 19, 2013 photo provided by CBS News, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, of Ohio, speaks during an interview in his Capitol Hill office for CBS's Sunday morning "Face the Nation" in Washington. (AP Photo)

( - House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) apparently sees his role as more of a facilitator than a leader.

Asked repeatedly if he favors a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens, Boehner told CBS's "Face the Nation" that his job is not to take a stand, but to let the House "work its will."

"My job in this -- in this process is to facilitate a discussion and to facilitate a process so the American people can see what we're doing and so the members understand that we're dealing with this in a deliberative way," Boehner said.

Pressed repeatedly on whether he personally favors a pathway to citizenship, Boehner demurred:

"[P]eople have been trying to get me to do this since the day after the election," Boehner said.

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"Well, you're the leader of the Republicans," Schieffer responded.

Boehner said he's made it clear that Congress needs to do something about immigration.

But, he added, "It's not about me. It's not about what I want. What I'm -- what I've committed to when I became speaker was to a more open and fair process. And as difficult as this issue is, me taking a hard position for or against some of these issues will make it harder for us to get a bill.

"If I come out and say I'm for this and I'm for that, all I'm doing is making my job harder. My job is to -- as the leader of the House, is to facilitate this conversation and this process that involves members on both sides of the aisle, involves the American people and where they can see us moving in a deliberative, step-by-step, commonsense way.

Boehner said the immigration system is "broken," but he said the House will not take up the Senate immigration bill because it falls short on border security. However, he refused to predict what kind of bill will make it to the House floor.

"What we're going to do in the House is, we're dealing with this in a commonsense, step-by-step approach. 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."

Schieffer said Boehner's reluctance to say what he's for or what he's against "is kind of an interesting take on leadership...In other words, you don't see yourself as someone who has an agenda? You're there to just sort of manage whatever your people want to do?"

"The House should be allowed to work its will," Boehner said, adding that he's watched what other House speakers did before he got the job:

"And, you know, I could talk about what happened just before I became speaker. All the bills were written in the speaker's office. Those bills turned -- all turned out to be very unpopular, whether it was the stimulus bill, the Dodd-Frank bill, Obamacare, shoved through the floor of the House, 430 members, Democrats and Republicans locked out in the process. This is not the way the House is intended to work."

Boehner denied that he's taken the "facilitator" approach because he can't control his caucus:

"Bob, I talked about this the day I was sworn in as speaker, that I considered my job was to open up the process, to let members participate.

"Yeah, I've got certain things that I'd like to see accomplished. But this is not going to be about me. I said it the opening day, and it's never going to be about me. It's what's in the best interests of the country.

"If we're listening to the American people and we're following their will, our House will work just fine."

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