Tag Archives: john boehner

Paul Ryan denies rumors he’ll step down as House Speaker

Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday he’ll seek re-election to the top job in the House if Republicans hold onto their majority, an outcome that’s widely expected in next week’s elections.

His comment comes as some House Republicans — hard-right conservatives and backers of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump — have discussed trying to oust him from his post. He became speaker only a year ago after the far-right Freedom Caucus pressured his predecessor, John Boehner, R-Ohio, into retirement.

Some members of the roughly 40-member group have discussed opposing Ryan. They’ve expressed worries that he won’t hold out for spending curbs in upcoming negotiations with President Barack Obama and Democrats over next year’s budget.

Ryan was asked Friday during a campaign stop about a report in The Hill newspaper concerning “chatter” that he’s not interested in running for a full two-year term.  Sources said he’s deterred due to the tough fight he faces for re-election as speaker, especially if Trump loses. He’s under fire not only from far-right Republicans but also some mainstream leaders over his tepid support for Trump’s presidency. Last month, following the release of a videotape from Access Hollywood in which Trump bragged about assaulting women, the congressman announced that he’d no longer publicly defend Trump or campaign with him.

If Clinton wins, he’s certain to share some of the blame.

But Ryan insists that he’s going nowhere. “Nope. Not true,” Ryan said at the campaign stop. “Don’t believe everything you read. I am interested in staying on as speaker.”

The 46-year-old congressman from Janesville was his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee and is considered a potential future presidential candidate. He has broad support among Republicans, who control 247 House seats.

But the GOP is expected to lose some seats, although not the majority, in Tuesday’s elections, and many of the departed lawmakers are likely to be moderates who would have supported Ryan. Since Ryan would need 218 votes — a House majority — to be re-elected speaker when the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3, that change will give more leverage to the small band of dissident lawmakers who want to replace him. No Democrats would be expected to vote for him.

Ryan said he wants to keep his job to push the GOP agenda he’s been heading into Tuesday’s elections. He also denied the many obvious divisions among Republicans.

Some lawmakers and other strategists also have wondered whether Ryan might step aside rather than risk his political career by angering conservative voters. Upcoming budget talks and the need to extend federal borrowing authority next year —perhaps after negotiating with a President Hillary Clinton — could produce results that would upset such voters.

 

 

No love lost as Boehner calls Cruz ‘Lucifer in the flesh’

Former House Speaker John Boehner unloaded on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz during a talk to college students, calling the Texas senator “Lucifer in the flesh.”

Speaking at a town hall-style event at Stanford University last week, Boehner called front-runner Donald Trump his “texting buddy,” but offered a more graphic response when asked about Cruz.

“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

His comments were first reported by Stanford’s student newspaper.

Cruz, campaigning in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ahead of the state’s May 3 primary, responded by saying Boehner was letting his “inner Trump come out” with his remarks. He attempted to turn the criticism into a slam on Trump.

“John Boehner in his remarks described Donald Trump as his texting and golfing buddy,” Cruz said. “So if you want someone that’s a texting and golfing buddy, if you’re happy with John Boehner as speaker of the House and you want a president like John Boehner, Donald Trump is your man.”

Both Cruz and Carly Fiorina, who was campaigning with him after he named her as his running mate Wednesday, referred to Boehner’s comments during the rally.

In 2013, Cruz joined forces with tea party conservatives in the House in triggering a partial, 16-day government shutdown over demands to undo President Barack Obama’s health care law. There was no chance Obama would agree to such a step, and Republican leaders like Boehner saw the move as a fruitless effort that only hurt the GOP politically.

Two years later, the same House conservatives challenged Boehner’s leadership, and the speaker decided to step down rather than allow a very public fight.

Boehner’s successor, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said at his weekly news conference Thursday that he has “a much better relationship than that with Sen. Cruz.”

“My job is to help unify our party,” Ryan said, when reporters pressed him on Boehner’s comments. “I have a very good relationship with both of these men, and I’m going to keep it that way.”

Cruz told reporters that he had never worked with Boehner.

“The truth of the matter is I don’t know the man,” Cruz said. “I’ve met John Boehner two or three times in my life. If I have said 50 words in my life to John Boehner, I would be surprised. And every one of them has consisted of pleasantries, ‘Good to see you, Mr. Speaker.’ I’ve never had any substantive conversation with John Boehner in any respect.”

Cruz said he was rebuffed by Boehner when he asked to meet with him during the government shutdown.

Cruz said Boehner’s comments reflect his frustration with Americans who stand with Republicans who want to hold members of Congress accountable for their campaign promises to repeal Obama’s health care law and pursue other conservative goals.

“When John Boehner calls me Lucifer, he’s not directing that at me,” Cruz said. “He’s directing that at you.”

 

 Republican donors give cold shoulder to Cruz, Kasich

It seems like a logical pairing: Republican donors who despise Donald Trump and two GOP presidential hopefuls striving to keep him from the nomination.

Yet such a financial cavalry never arrived for Ted Cruz and John Kasich. GOP donors have ignored their impassioned pleas for financial help.

Republican donors who gave as much as allowed by law to establishment darlings Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio have mostly disappeared from the political landscape, according to an Associated Press analysis of campaign finance records. Less than 3 percent of the nearly 14,600 donors who gave the $2,700 limit to Bush or Rubio have also ponied up the maximum amount to Kasich or Cruz.

By not writing those checks, Republican donors are depriving Cruz and Kasich of as much as $39 million each in their final push to topple Trump, who has formidably deep pockets and has loaned $36 million to his own campaign.

The quest to stop Trump has grown so daunting that Cruz took the unusual step of announcing a running mate, Carly Fiorina, without waiting for the convention. Earlier, he and Kasich agreed to divide up some remaining primary states to improve their chances of beating Trump.

But Republican donors have continued to shun Cruz and Kasich, which is one reason they haven’t had more success.

“There are a significant number of major fundraisers in the Republican Party whose networks are exhausted and donors who are worn thin emotionally from the effort they made for a candidate who is no longer in the race,” said Wayne Berman, a longtime Republican fundraiser. “That combination has led to many, many people sitting on the sidelines.”

He’s speaking from experience. Berman was the national finance chairman for Rubio and chose not to raise money for any other candidate after the Florida senator dropped out March 15.

Both Kasich and Cruz have feverishly pitched themselves to donors as the candidate best able to unify the party. It has been a particularly tough fit for Cruz, a first-term Texas senator who is almost universally despised by the GOP establishment. Former House Speaker John Boehner recently referred to him as “Lucifer.”

“I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” Boehner told an audience at Stanford University.

Cruz has had a healthy core of his own donors, particularly among evangelical Christians. Nearly 3,900 donors have given him the maximum amount.

In fact, Cruz is the best Republican campaign fundraiser of the 2016 cycle. He began April with $8.8 million cash on hand.

Still, this critical stage of the race has called for extra outreach, particularly with expensive contests such as California coming up and Cruz in need of better primary performances to derail Trump. Cruz has stepped up his requests of Republican donors who might not have otherwise considered him. He and his wife, a Goldman Sachs manager on leave, talked to New York financiers last week at the Harvard Club of New York City.

They’re seldom responding, AP’s analysis shows. Through the end of March, just 186 Bush-Rubio maxed-out donors gave the maximum to Cruz.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based fundraiser for Bush’s failed bid, is one of them. He said he felt he “owed” the donation to Cruz because of his strong support of Israel, Zeidman’s top issue. “I wanted to show him my appreciation for that,” Zeidman said.

Still, Zeidman said he can understand why lots of former Bush and Rubio donors are reluctant.

“At this point, many of them feel like the main objective should be to beat the Democratic nominee, so they’re keeping their powder dry until the general election, in effect just letting the primary system sort itself out,” he said.

Kasich, the governor of Ohio, has attracted 174 maxed-out donors who also gave the maximum to Bush and Rubio. He’s won over some of the party’s top female donors, including Anna Mann, Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife; Lynne Walton, a Wal-Mart heiress; and Helen DeVos, wife of Amway founder and fundamentalist Christian leader Richard DeVos.

But Kasich has been in desperate need of more donors willing to give as much as they can. He started April with just $1.2 million cash on hand.

The AP analysis is based on reports of campaign contributions filed with the Federal Election Commission from the beginning of the 2016 presidential election cycle through the end of March.

The AP looked at donors who gave the maximum primary amount to Bush or Rubio with those who had given the maximum primary amount to the Democratic and Republican candidates still in the race, comparing each donor’s name, city, state and zip code. Because the analysis excluded donors if any of the information didn’t match, it could result in a slight undercount.

The analysis revealed another troubling finding for Cruz and Kasich: Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton attracted about the same number of Bush-Rubio donors as did their campaigns.

About a dozen Bush-Rubio donors have also given to Trump. A tiny core of 15 Bush-Rubio donors continued to hedge their bets by maxing out to both Cruz and Kasich, continuing their spread-the-love approach this election cycle. Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire Minnesota broadcast executive, has doled out checks of $2,500 or more to Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

Of his multi-layered giving, Hubbard told the AP a few months ago that he wanted anyone other than Trump or Cruz at the top of the GOP ticket because he saw either of them as devastating for the party’s down-ballot prospects.

Trump’s continued dominance led him to revise that view: He gave Cruz a check of $2,700 on March 31.

“He’s not my first choice, no,” Hubbard said. But, he added, he has no regrets about his heretofore fruitless campaign gifts. “Not a bit. When you give to politicians, sometimes you lose. That’s the way it works.”

 

Analysis: The GOP is in chaos, desperately seeking a leader

In the unruly U.S. House, Republicans enjoy a near-historic majority, yet deep divisions between ultra-conservatives and more traditional GOP lawmakers have left them at a loss over who should be in charge. In the Republican presidential primary, experienced governors and senators — long the party’s national leaders-in-waiting — are overshadowed by outsiders like Donald Trump who only seem to get stronger as they challenge the GOP establishment.

Trump even claimed he helped push California Rep. Kevin McCarthy out of the race for House speaker this week, a shocking pullback by a lawmaker seen as the heir apparent.

“They’re giving me a lot of credit for that, because I said you really need somebody very, very tough,” said Trump, the brash billionaire who has led GOP primary polls throughout the summer and fall.

McCarthy was felled by the same factors that led current Speaker John Boehner to announce his resignation: a rebellion among members sent to Washington by voters who believe the party has compromised far too often with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

The challenge now facing Republicans is not only looking for leaders to unite the party’s warring factions, but determining whether finding them is even possible.

For all the talk about ideology, the split among Republicans is often more about tactics. Boehner and McCarthy are both staunchly conservative lawmakers, but members elected in the tea party-era openly question whether they can be trusted to hold the line in budget negotiations and on other matters.

In the House, some Republicans are begging Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to step into the void. Ryan is no more conservative than Boehner — like the outgoing speaker, he has called for immigration reform — but he’s widely respected in the party and seen as one of its intellectual leaders.

“It would be hard for people to confront Paul Ryan and say he’s not a good Republican or he’s not loyal,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said. “He has the stature nobody else has right now.”

Yet it’s telling that Ryan, a budget expert and the GOP’s vice presidential pick in 2012, has so far said he doesn’t want the job. He’s left the clear impression that ascending to speaker in the current political environment would be more detrimental than helpful to his political future, which includes White House ambitions.

Indeed, the next speaker will face a quick test to corral lawmakers who equate compromise with surrender. Congress must lift the nation’s debt limit by early November in order to avoid a default and faces a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a budget and keep the government open.

A protracted fight over either issue would spill into the GOP presidential primary, forcing candidates to pick sides between the House’s small but vocal “hell no” caucus and leaders who warn the party would take the blame for a default or a federal shutdown.

The risk for the party establishment is that those fights could harden support for presidential candidates running as political outsiders, namely Trump as well as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former technology executive Carly Fiorina. Predictions that Trump, and now Carson and Fiorina, would fade in polls have so far proved unfounded, yet few Republican strategists believe any of the three could win the general election.

If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio or another experienced politician does become the GOP nominee, it’s unclear whether the hardliners would fall in line or simply abandon the party on Election Day by not showing up or backing a third-party contender.

For Republicans aghast at the turmoil roiling their party, there’s this to cling to: The GOP’s electoral prospects beyond the White House remain strong. They’re sure to keep control of the House thanks to heavily gerrymandered districts, they have a legitimate shot at holding the Senate, and their prospects are good in several governors’ races.

And while Democrats have demographic advantages in the presidential race, given their strength with Hispanics, blacks and younger Americans, voters may simply prefer a change rather than giving the party a third straight term in the White House.

At least a few Republicans also appear to be clinging to the hope that the current chaos marks the low point for the party, not the start of a deeper descent.

“It’s a rocky, difficult period,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Boehner ally. “But it’s probably a cathartic moment as well.”

Paul Ryan not interested in becoming House speaker

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, is not interested in replacing Rep. John Boehner as speaker of the House of Representatives.

Boehner announced that he will be resigning at the end of October.

Ryan’s spokesman says the Republican from Janesville is not interested in the post. Ryan is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Ryan says in a statement that Boehner’s decision to step down is “an act of pure selflessness.”

He calls Boehner “a great leader of the Republican Party and the House of Representatives.”

GOP ignores real issues to energize extremist base

Republicans hope to energize their evangelical base by shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood.

A band of congressional Republicans won’t back legislation financing government agencies unless the bill blocks federal payments to Planned Parenthood. A partial shutdown will occur on Oct. 1 unless federal lawmakers provide money to keep government functioning. With time running out, GOP leaders haven’t said how they’ll handle conservatives’ demands while also rounding up enough votes to prevent a shutdown.

The obstructionist Republicans hope a showy stunt of shutting down the federal government over Planned Parenthood funding will energize their evangelical Christian base ahead of the 2016 elections. They oppose PP because a small fraction — about 3 percent — of the group’s services include helping women to end unwanted pregnancies. They overlook the fact that the group provides many vital health services to both men and women that they might not otherwise be able to access, including cancer screenings, STD testing, pre-natal care and family planning, 

Federal law prevents PP from spending any of its federal money on providing abortions.

Republicans became incensed this summer when an anti-choice group released secretly recorded videos in which PP officials offhandedly discuss how they sometimes provide tissue from aborted fetuses for critical medical research. It has since been revealed that the videos were deceptively edited to horrify viewers. Several state-level investigations of PP by Republican governors have found that PP has engaged in no wrongdoing.

But that hasn’t stopped PP opponents from using the issue to manufacture a frenzy.

Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina marred what was otherwise a stellar debate performance on Sept. 16 by tearing up while blatantly lying about the content on the videos. 

Ted Cruz appears intent on shutting down the government over PP funding to best Mike Huckabee as the consummate champion of evangelical Christianity. Cruz lost the last round of the joust, when Huckabee’s bodyguards kept him from mounting the dais to be seen at the side of anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis after she was released from jail. Cruz was eager to get in front of news cameras recording Davis’ Evita moment, but instead he was broadcast being blocked from access by a much smaller Huckabee operative.

The House already has passed a bill that would block PP’s federal funding for a year, but Senate Democrats have enough votes to block it in their chambers. Even if they didn’t, President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it and Republicans lack the votes to override his veto.

House Speaker John Boehner staged the defunding vote to placate his party’s PP critics and give them a chance to go on the record with their opposition. Since they’ve already gotten attention for their stance, the motive behind shutting down the government is puzzling. The action will only hurt Republicans with moderate and independent voters, just as similar efforts have in the past.

A significant majority of Republicans would support Boehner if he presses for a temporary funding bill disentangled from the dispute over PP. But a few dozen extremist Republicans have vowed to oppose any such effort and some are weighing a challenge to Boehner’s leadership.

The reckless, pointless effort to shut down the government dramatizes how useless Congress has become in general and Republican members in particular. They routinely distract the public with empty gestures like this one to pander to their base while neglecting real issues.

ANALYSIS: Tea party may be on verge of becoming a 3rd party

The political chaos in the first two months of the new Congress, despite Republican control in both houses, may signal that the tea party is morphing into a quasi-third party, a deeply conservative band of legislators who routinely thwart Republican vows of effective government.

Most recently, a group of tea party Republicans forced House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to turn to Democrats to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, particularly striking at a time when the U.S. is battling Islamic State group attempts to hold huge parts of Syria and Iraq and wreak havoc in North Africa.

The battle over Homeland Security funding hinged on 52 Republicans who refused to approve the measure unless it included a section that would overturn President Barack Obama’s executive action that temporarily lifted the threat of deportation for millions of people in the country illegally.

While the Republican advantage in the House is 245-188, the largest majority in 70 years, Boehner was finally forced to rely on Democrats on a key vote to fund the department.

It was a huge embarrassment for Boehner personally and the Republicans more largely. The speaker sided with tea party demands on immigration until he had to quietly change tactics, dropping the extraneous measure so the department would not go unfunded, at least for a week. Full funding then passed the House with 182 Democrats in the chamber voting for it, along with 75 Republicans. But 167 Republicans voted against it, a striking rebuke to Boehner.

Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of Boehner’s strongest critics, said a fierce struggle between establishment Republicans and “grassroots conservatives” is brewing. “The war is on,” he said.

And that likely will show itself in continued infighting within party ranks and between the House and the Senate over pending issues like passing a budget, increasing the nation’s borrowing authority and passing a new use of force agreement for Obama in the battle against Islamic State group militants.

Robin Lauermann, a political scientist at Messiah College, thinks the “war” Huelskamp speaks of will eventually lead to an open split between tea party Republicans and their more mainstream party colleagues.

“I think it continues until you have the fatal error, the fatal decision that does not get made that creates a catastrophe, or the fatal decision that does get made,” Lauermann said.

That could well happen over Obama’s health care program, she said. The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule later this year on the constitutionality of a part of the law. If the court rules against the government, Obamacare could be gutted. While the program isn’t widely popular in the United States, a sufficient number of people have begun to see the benefit and could turn against Republicans. That may force the mainstream to kick out the tea party so that mainstream Republicans can begin to find replacement legislation.

James Riddlesperger, political scientist at Texas Christian University, says the tea party is the right-wing fringe of a mainstream Republican party that realizes it must “close the gap with Democrats on some things” if government is to function with any sort of normalcy. That’s what happened with Boehner when the chamber finally voted to fund the Homeland Security without demands for repeal of Obama’s immigration tactics.

That reality will leave the tea party more isolated as Republicans look forward to the 2016 presidential contest.

“It’s one thing to get the Republican nomination for president, but it’s another thing to win the national election,” Riddlesperger said. “You have people saying Jeb Bush is the front-runner, and while that may be true, Jeb Bush is not going to be a candidate that appeals to the tea party.”

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Pope Francis will address Congress this fall, emphasizing need to stop climate change as well as mistreatment of immigrants and the poor

In a landmark event that could put many national lawmakers on edge, Pope Francis has agreed to address a joint meeting of Congress this fall. That sets the stage for an oration by an outspoken pontiff whose views on immigration and global warming clash with Republicans who command the House and Senate.

Francis will speak on Sept. 24, marking the first time that the head of the world’s Roman Catholics will address Congress. It will come during the first U.S. visit of Francis’ two-year-old papacy, a trip also expected to include a White House meeting with President Barack Obama, a speech to the United Nations in New York and a Catholic rally for families in Philadelphia.

Saying he had “a bit of good news,” House Speaker John Boehner delivered first word of Francis’ speech at his weekly news conference this week.

“We’re humbled that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation and certainly look forward to receiving his message on behalf of the American people,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a written statement that she looks forward to “hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”

When he speaks to lawmakers, Francis will address a Congress that is 31 percent Catholic, well above the 22 percent average of all Americans, according to a survey released last month by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Boehner and Pelosi are both Catholic.

Francis, an Argentinian Jesuit and the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, has made helping immigrants a cornerstone of his papacy and has called on wealthy nations to do more for the poor — an attitude that is in stark contrast to the agenda of U.S. Republicans.

By this summer, he also plans to release an encyclical, or teaching document, on climate change, which he says is mostly manmade. U.S. Republicans deny that human activity has a significant bearing on the problem.

Francis plans to use his trip to the U.S. to urge world leaders to take bold steps to curb global warming ahead of this fall’s U.N. climate change conference in Paris. But his words will fall on deaf ears in Congress, whose members can’t hold their seats without massive donations from the fossil fuel industry.

Republicans have battled Obama’s efforts to make it easier for many immigrants in the U.S. illegally to remain in the country; they want to strengthen border security to keep more of them out. Many of them have also opposed efforts to reduce pollutants that contribute to global warming.

Francis, 78, has shown a willingness to publicly call on political leaders to follow some of his values. In a pair of speeches to European leaders last November, he urged them to create jobs and help immigrants gain acceptance.

“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” he said, referring to the thousands of immigrants annually who try reaching Europe across that sea.

“He has a track record of challenging people,” said Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “I don’t think he’ll be overawed by Congress.”

Democrats may not be immune to Francis’ views, either.

He has condemned abortion and the use of artificial contraception, and called marriage between a man and a woman a “fundamental pillar” of society. However, he has not emphasized these issues as much as immigration and poverty.

Boehner’s announcement follows his controversial invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will address Congress about Iran on March 3, two weeks before he seeks re-election. Boehner made that offer without consulting Obama, angering the White House and congressional Democrats.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said he was eager to welcome the pope to the U.S.

“Like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable,” the president said.

Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Washington and New York during a 2008 trip. That visit included a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House, a celebration of Mass at Nationals Park and a speech at Catholic University.

Paul VI became the first pope to visit the United States with a 1965 trip that included an appeal for peace at the United Nations at the height of the Vietnam War. He did not travel to Washington during the visit.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this story.


House Republicans move toward lawsuit against Obama’s immigration orders

House Republicans are moving toward authorizing a potential lawsuit against President Barack Obama on immigration.

House Speaker John Boehner announced the plans this week in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers, telling them GOP leaders are finalizing a legal plan with the best chance of blocking Obama’s moves, according to a person in the room.

Options include joining a lawsuit already filed by states over the issue, or filing a separate lawsuit. The person in the room spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The plan emerged with Republicans short on realistic options for stopping Obama’s November executive actions, which extended work permits and temporary deportation relief to some 4 million people here illegally.

The House already has passed legislation to overturn the immigration policies, but the Senate looks unlikely to agree to the measures, which were added to must-pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security beyond February.

It’s not clear how that issue will be resolved. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote on the House-passed bill, and said Tuesday that the Senate would take up the issue as soon as next week.

But nearly all Senate Democrats signed a letter to McConnell Tuesday urging him not to include immigration measures on the Homeland Security spending bill. With Republicans six votes short of the 60 needed to advance most legislation in the Senate, McConnell cannot move the bill without some Democratic support, leaving the way forward unclear. He has promised there will be no government shutdown.

“This is an important fight to have. I think we should do everything we can to persuade at least a half a dozen Democrats that they should join us to get this done,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “Sometimes you don’t know how these legislative battles go if you don’t have them, and we intend to have this one.”

The uncertainty has frustrated conservative Republicans who believe Congress’ top priority on immigration should be to hold firm against Obama. They united against a separate border security bill that was scheduled to come to a vote on the House floor Wednesday, and GOP leaders delayed action, citing changes to the House schedule caused by the inclement weather. It’s not clear when that bill will come back up.

House Republicans already have sued to try to undo Obama’s health care law.

Analysis: Republicans lost 5 House seats last time the GOP pushed impeachment

The last time Republicans unleashed impeachment proceedings against a Democratic president, they lost five House seats in an election they seemed primed to win handily.

Memories of Bill Clinton and the campaign of 1998 may help explain why Speaker John Boehner and the current Republican leadership want no part of such talk now, although conservatives increasingly clamor for it. And also why President Barack Obama’s White House seems almost eager to stir the impeachment pot three months before midterm congressional elections.

Republicans have already “opened the door for impeachment” with their plans to sue the president over allegedly failing to carry out the health care law, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer told reporters. In something of a dare last week, he also said any further action Obama takes on his own on immigration will “up the likelihood” of a  Republican-led move to remove Obama from office.

The Democrats’ campaign committee from the House of Representatives used reports of tea party Republicans meeting to discuss impeachment in an emailed fundraising plea sent Sunday. They warned “the fate of Obama’s presidency is at stake.”

Pfeiffer and Democratic fundraisers aren’t privy to the inner workings of the House Republican leadership. Boehner, who is, insists at every public opportunity that the lawsuit is one thing, impeachment is another — and not on the table. The planned suit results from a dispute over the balance of powers between the president and Congress, he said last month, and the House “must act as an institution to defend the constitutional principles at stake.”

Republicans dispute suggestions by Democrats that the suit’s true purpose is to release pressure from the party’s more extreme supporters for impeachment.

One Republican committee chairman, Congressman Pete Sessions, said in a brief interview that Clinton deserved to be impeached, but Obama does not.

The 42nd president “broke the law,” he said of formal allegations that accused Clinton of lying under oath to a grand jury and obstructing justice in connection with his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Contrasting the former president with the current one, Sessions said: “Breaking the law is different from not fully enforcing the law.”

At least one senior Republican isn’t as definitive. Interviewed on Sunday on Fox, Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, newly elected to the Republican leadership, repeatedly declined to rule out impeaching Obama.

For his part, Sessions spoke a few hours after he opened a meeting of the House Rules Committee with what could well have been a case for impeachment: sweeping allegations that went far beyond the boundaries of the planned lawsuit.

“The president has unilaterally waived work requirements for welfare recipients,” the Texas Republican said. The chief executive “ended accountability provisions in No Child Left Behind,” an education law dating to the George W. Bush era, he said.

The president “refused to inform the Congress of the transfer of what is known as the Taliban five,” Sessions went on. “And ignored the statutory requirements of the Affordable Care Act,” he said, using the formal name for the 4-year-old health care law also known as Obamacare.

However compelling the complaints, no judge will ever rule on most of them.

Three months before the November elections, Republicans intend to limit their lawsuit to a narrower claim, that he has failed to faithfully carry out the health care law that, according to polls, remains poorly received by the public.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said in a statement last month. “No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

Republican officials say they decided to narrow the focus of the court case after being advised by lawyers that their chances of succeeding would be stronger.

None of this seems likely to satisfy the political right, as 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin recently made clear. “It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of America we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment,” she wrote.

Yet her opinion is not widely shared among non-Republicans, and Democrats quickly sought to use calls like the one from Palin to raise campaign funds.

In a CNN survey last week, more than half of all Republicans said they favor Obama’s impeachment, but that level that fell to one-third of the overall electorate. Among independents, 63 percent opposed it.

A lawsuit is also generally unpopular, but less so than impeachment would be, the poll indicated.

When it came to the lawsuit, 41 percent of the country backed it. Support was 75 percent among Republicans, while independents opposed it by 43-55.

As a junior member of the leadership in 1998, Boehner had a seat at the table when Republicans decided to inject Clinton’s impeachment into that year’s elections.

Republicans held their majority, but Democrats gained five seats, a rarity in midterm elections for the party in power in the White House.

Clinton was impeached in a post-election session of the House, later acquitted in the Senate and remained in office. Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich fared worse. Under pressure from his rank and file, the Republican gave up his post and left Congress soon after the election debacle.

In the upheaval, Boehner lost his leadership post for a decade.