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Boehner breaks out the truth

In Washington, House Speaker John Boehner peddles a line on immigration reform that is transparently false. In his Ohio district, he becomes a truth-teller.

For months, Boehner has tried to justify the intransigence of his fellow House Republicans. His stated reason was that they could not trust President Barack Obama to enforce any law.

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” Boehner said in February. “And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

But on Thursday, at a meeting at a Rotary Club, he gave it to ’em straight. The speaker squarely blamed his GOP caucus, with more than a hint of derision. “Here’s the attitude,” he said, scrunching up his face and delivering the real Republican excuse in a toddler’s whine: “ ‘Ohhhh, don’t make me do this! Ohhhh, this is too hard!’ ”

Boehner knows if he were ever to permit the full House to vote on the Senate immigration bill, which includes tougher enforcement and a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, it would pass. But Republicans continue to block it because they fear attacks from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and tea party extremists.

“We get elected to make choices,” Boehner told his constituents. “We get elected to solve problems, and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to. ... They’ll take the path of least resistance.”

It’s refreshing the speaker has dropped the pretext of blaming Obama. The president has signaled he is willing to compromise to do a deal – to bulk up security on the southwestern border beyond what is sensible, perhaps to settle for legal status short of citizenship for the millions of immigrants now living in the shadows. Republicans are the obstacle.

The trouble is that this bracing shot of honesty from Boehner probably will not fix the underlying problem, which is a Republican Party that cannot see a future for itself, or for the nation, beyond its own predominantly white, aging electorate. House Republicans are loath to embrace the nation’s Hispanics in part because relatively few of them live or vote in their districts. As they cling to an older America, a new America is rising fast.

Some Republicans have seen this and tried to coax back-benchers toward a deal on immigration that would align Republican interests with a changing nation. So far they have failed – but at least in Boehner’s case, they are starting to level with the public as to why.