WASHINGTON - House Speaker John A. Boehner gave an early glimpse Thursday of the legislative priorities that will shape the Republican-controlled 114th Congress, setting the stage for two more years of ideological conflict with President Obama and the new Democratic minority.
"Finding common ground is going to be hard work, but it will be even harder if the president isn't willing to work with us," Boehner told reporters gathered for an afternoon news conference on Capitol Hill. "I've told the president before, he needs to put politics aside and rebuild trust."
Obama is expected to use his executive authority to extend protections for millions of undocumented residents who have been living in the United States for years, essentially bypassing Congress. Boehner spoke at length Thursday about that possibility and warned that such actions would "poison" the president's relationship with the Republican leadership.
"I've made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally, on his own, outside of his authority, he will poison the well, and there will be no chance of immigration reform moving in this Congress," Boehner said. "It is as simple as that.
"When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he's going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path."
Boehner, in line for a third term as speaker, listed several priorities for the coming congressional session. Among them: getting approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, moving on tax reform, and working on debt reduction.
But expanding upon points made in a Wall Street Journal editorial published Wednesday, Boehner focused much of his attention on his desire to replace and reform key components of the Affordable Care Act, stating with confidence that such measures could pass the House.
Although he expressed doubt over whether a full repeal could pass the Senate - even with the GOP in the majority - he said he believed bipartisan support existed for the repeal of several ACA provisions, such as the medical-device tax and the individual mandate.
A full repeal of the law is virtually impossible without a veto-proof majority in Congress, but "just because we may not be able to get everything we want doesn't mean we shouldn't try to get what we can," Boehner said.
Advocates say the White House is weighing actions that would apply to those who meet a certain term of U.S. residency, perhaps 10 years. Also under consideration is whether to include parents of those who received deportation deferrals under Obama, or only parents of children who are U.S. citizens because they were born here.