All three of these men [Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan] think it’d be good for the GOP to pass an immigration bill, and all three know that the bulk of their conference is against it. So they have to couch the proposal in whatever language mollifies the rest of the party.
The trouble here is that Boehner’s remarks aren’t going to mollify anyone that doesn’t already favor an immigration bill of the kind that the leaders have in mind. Consider the leadership’s position for a moment. They’re saying to Republicans, “We know you don’t trust Obama to live up to his end of any bargain we make on immigration, and we don’t, either, so let’s go make a deal with someone that none of us trusts.” This doesn’t make opponents of an immigration bill any less skeptical, and it reminds them that there is no reason to go along with passing new legislation while a president they distrust is in office. The natural Republican response to Boehner is to say, “You’re right that Obama can’t be trusted, so we’re going to wait until we have regained control of the Senate and the White House before we agree to pass anything at all.”
The House leaders are working on the assumption that passing an immigration bill is both desirable and beneficial to their party. Most of their party believes neither of these things, so they’re bound to be wary of anything that the leaders tell them in an attempt to sell them on what most of them regard as bad legislation. The difficulty that Boehner and his lieutenants have is not just that Republicans don’t trust Obama, but that most Republicans also don’t trust their own leaders on this issue, and with good reason.