By Joe Guzzardi
April 25, 2014
The stupefyingly stubborn John Boehner is at it again. A week ago at a Las Vegas fundraiser, the House speaker audaciously said that he’s hell-bent on passing an immigration bill this year. Then at the exclusive Brown’s Run Country Club in his Ohio home district, Boehner publicly ridiculed his fellow House Republicans for refusing to fall in line. Said Boehner in a whining voice intended to disparage uncooperative Republicans: “Here’s the attitude. Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard.”
Boehner had captive audiences. To the Nevada hotel industry and wealthy Ohio manufacturers, Boehner’s promises of more cheap labor are music to their ears.
Boehner’s year-long amnesty advocacy that would give legal work authorization to 12 million aliens and more than double legal immigration within the first decade echoes what President Obama has been saying. Obama routinely derides the House for what he describes as its inaction on the Senate immigration bill which passed last June. Now Boehner, supposedly representing the opposition party, shamelessly mocks his enforcement-first colleagues just like Obama does.
Without a doubt, behind the scenes plotting to ram through a damaging immigration bill is progressing fast and furiously. Capitol Hill insiders say that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a pro-amnesty Republican, is drafting legislation that would give aliens legal status (translation: legalization = work permits) and the opportunity to apply for citizenship. House leadership that includes Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has told Diaz-Balart to have his legislation ready for an early summer debate. The timetable is consistent with what knowledgeable immigration analysts feared—after the mid-term primary season has ended so that incumbents won’t have to fear challenges from the right.
Many observers wonder what the rush is to act immediately and alienate grassroots Republicans when the GOP may be poised in November to add to its House majority and win the Senate. The simple but troubling answer is that for pro-amnesty Republicans, if a bill doesn’t pass this year, the next chance may not arrive until 2016.
Here’s the calculus. If the House gets a bill to the Senate—any bill—they’ll go to conference with hard-nosed Speaker Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. What will emerge from conference will be something frighteningly close to last year’s Senate bill which would open up the floodgates to millions more immigrants to the U.S. in a time of deep economic uncertainty.
But assume the House staves off amnesty pressure and that Republicans end up controlling the Senate. Under that framework, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley would take over for Pat Leahy in the top judiciary seat. Unlike pro-immigration Leahy who rammed the Senate legislation through his committee, Grassley would represent a serious and possibly insurmountable obstacle to expansive immigration bills.
Even though the stakes this year are high, Boehner and his House supporters are making an all or nothing gamble. By 2016, Boehner will have fewer potential immigration allies. Only marginally popular with many House members, Boehner has been steadily losing friends to retirement. Among those who have announced they won’t seek re-election after serving multiple terms: House Ways and Means chair Dave Camp, Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, Iowa’s Tom Latham, Boehner’s closest D.C. friend and 22 others who have had enough of the congressional deadlock.
Whatever may happen on immigration, Boehner’s future is cloudy. In January, come what may, Boehner’s many detractors will be calling for his head. Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp who didn’t vote for Boehner in 2013 said: “Looks like a whole bunch of folks are leaving who are key to him staying as speaker.”
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]