And he's doing this at a time when the GOP's right wing is robustly reasserting itself in the face of postelection discussion in some quarters about the party needing to reset itself. So following up on the House's voting last week to reverse President Obama's DREAM Act executive order, the chamber's Judiciary Committee this week passed the SAFE Act, which would criminalize illegal immigration, and a guest worker bill which opponents criticized as "partisan and extreme." This is a problem with the GOP's preferred piecemeal approach to immigration reform: It creates a steady, drip-drip-drip drumbeat reminding Latino voters why the GOP repels them.
Which brings us back to Boehner, a leader with the national party's best interests at heart – he presumably understands that the GOP cannot stay presidentially viable if they permanently alienate Hispanic voters – who is answerable to constituents who define parochialism: U.S. House members.
Is Boehner bluffing about the Hastert rule? It's possible that not even he knows, although he's been more out front about adhering to it than he has been in the instances this year when he's broken it. One event to watch is a special GOP conference meeting on July 10 aimed at figuring out where the House members stand and what they can coalesce behind.
Immigration reform may well come down to which Boehner values more: His political viability or his party's.