By Joe Guzzardi
October 16, 2015
Capitol Hill Republicans are not so much in chaos, as the media gleefully reports, but rather in rebellion. Nothing demonstrates the deep dissatisfaction within the GOP more than the haggling over who will replace Ohio representative John Boehner as House speaker.
Boehner is unpopular with the small but powerful Freedom Caucus because he’s perceived as aligned with even more unpopular President Barack Obama. Formed in January, the caucus is small, only about 40-members strong, but wields power greater than its numbers suggest.
The grievances include Boehner’s refusal to battle Obama on his unconstitutional executive action amnesty, to fulfill his pre-mid-term election promise to defund the program, and to his passive resistance to Loretta Lynch when the White House nominated her to replace outgoing Eric Holder. Like Holder, Lynch supported Obama’s amnesty.
The search for Boehner’s replacement has been thwarted in large part because the most apparent successors have, as the Freedom Caucus perceives it, a troubled history with immigration-related legislation, especially amnesty. California’s Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority leader, dropped out after a brief flirtation with the speakership. Some allege that rumors of inappropriate behavior with a House colleague expedited his departure. Others point to his relatively brief time in the House; McCarthy was first elected in 2006.
But insiders insist that McCarthy’s agreement with Boehner on Obama’s deferred action for parents of American citizens and legal permanent residents killed his chances. DAPA would grant temporary residency and work permits to between four and five million unlawfully present. In recent years, McCarthy has become increasingly vocal amnesty advocate.
With Boehner gone—or at least eager to be gone—and McCarthy unwilling to assume power, attention has shifted to a familiar and popular figure, Paul Ryan. Chairman of the influential House Budget Committee, Ryan was Mitt Romney’s choice for Vice President in 2012.
But if immigration torpedoed Boehner, and helped dissuade McCarthy from pursing the thankless, arduous Speaker’s job, then Ryan is doomed before he starts. Ryan is mulling over his next move—go for it and risk the slings and arrows that will await him or stay put in a job he enjoys and keep his good guy reputation.
On immigration, Ryan would provide his detractors with more fodder than Boehner and McCarthy combined. Even though comprehensive immigration reform is a non-starter in the remainder of the 114th Congress, it’s still a lightning rod.
Ryan’s track record as an immigration advocate dates back at least two decades. During negotiations on the 2013 failed Gang of Eight legislation, Ryan played a significant behind the scenes role as he tried to sell amnesty to his skeptical colleagues. Ryan plotted secretly a minimum of five times with a leading Senate liberal and a Gang of Eight Senate ringleader, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y).
Ryan’s many detractors also point to his affiliation with former U.S. Representative Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) when the two legislators worked in tandem to undermine California’s popular and voter-approved 1994 Proposition 187 that would have denied some public benefits to illegal immigrants.
An even bigger black mark on Ryan’s record is his support of legislation put forward by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and then-Arizona GOP Reps. Jim Kolbe and now Senator Jeff Flake., which was also backed by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). In the immigration debate, no names arouse more ire among the enforcement-minded than Gutierrez, McCain and Kennedy.
Polls show that Americans want less immigration, fewer work visas, mandatory E-Verify, and secure borders. Whoever may eventually prevail in the fight for House Speaker, and today it doesn’t look like Ryan will be that person, should be prepared to defend Americans’ immigration wishes.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]