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Why Boehner Is Wrong About Immigration Happening In 2015

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AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The Ohio Republican was asked on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's show on Tuesday about a potential delay in the president's executive action to possibly halt deportation for some undocumented immigrants. His full response, with emphasis added:

Well, I've outlined to the President in July that the House, the Congress, ought to be dealing with immigration reform. It wasn't likely to happen this year because of the flood on the border, and the President's own pounding his chest about using his phone and his pen. But I did outline that you know, there’s a possibility that Congress could take this issue up next year. But if that were going to happen, there are things that he should do, and things he should not do as we lead up to this. And I think adhering to the law is a minimum requirement from the President. And he ought to be takin actions to better secure our borders. And so I would hope that the President would continue to follow the law, and begin to take steps that would better secure our border. It would create an environment where you could do immigration reform in a responsible way next year.

Boehner's subliminal message to Obama is this: abandon your executive action, enforce the laws and we'll play ball on reform next year.

That's highly unlikely. Republican and Democratic operatives largely believe the prospects of reform passing in 2015 and 2016 are slim to none. In 2015, the presidential jousting will begin, and there are already signs that Republican candidates will be competing over who's the toughest sheriff on immigration. Reform is anathema to conservative voters, and GOP leaders would be more wary of crossing them.

There's also a good chance Republicans would rather wait until after the 2016 election, on the hope that they'll win the White House and get a bite at that apple themselves. Republicans won't like the idea of helping Obama secure another legacy-defining achievement.

Another obstacle is that the Senate-passed bill will be defunct in 2015, which means Congress would have to restart the process from scratch.

Even leading pro-immigration Democrats have openly admitted reform is probably dead — likely until at least 2017 — if it doesn't pass this year.

"The problem with next year is, the Republican primaries heat up, the Republican primaries move the whole party way to the right," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), an author of the Senate-passed immigration bill, said in February. "I think the likelihood of getting it done in 2015 is much less than in 2014."