On Immigration: Let the Backdoor Maneuvering Begin

Published on July 3rd, 2013

By Joe Guzzardi
July 3, 2013

According to Speaker John Boehner, the House will not vote on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. Boehner refuses to bring up S. 744 unless the majority of House Republicans support it. Boehner, Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte, and Trey Gowdy, Chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, vowed that under no circumstances will the House consider S. 744.

The two major hang ups among many are the Senate’s path to citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens and its failure to provide immediate improvements in border security. Instead, the House will introduce a series of smaller bills to deal with guest worker visas and internal enforcement. To date, the House is working on four bills, none of which include legalization.

Given what we’ve repeatedly heard, S. 744 should but may not be dead. Predictably, immigration advocates are undaunted. They’ve mapped out a multi-pronged approach to win over those in the House they perceive as sympathetic to their cause. The advocates have also targeted House leadership including Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Along with directly lobbying the House, pro-immigration organizations will spend several million dollars in radio and television spots as well as launch a far-reaching social network campaign.

These are the proponents’ preliminary maneuvers. Amnesty backers also hold a trump card that while unlikely to be played, could be problematic. Known as a discharge petition, the House Democratic minority can with a small number of votes from the Republican majority force a vote on the Senate bill exactly as written. A total of 218 votes would be required to automatically bring S. 744 to the House floor. Since Democrats only have 201 votes, they'd need 17 Republicans to join them plus one for every wayward Democrat.

Although a discharge petition in a partisan and polarized House is unlikely, it poses a danger that Republicans would prefer not to deal with. Discharge petitions are more frequently used to send a message like the Democrats did last December when they wanted to bring up a Senate bill extending the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000 a year.

Signing a petition would have dire consequences for the Republican signatory. First, it’s a direct affront to the majority leadership. In the case of the most contentious, toxic of issues—immigration—Republicans would face external repercussions, even if leadership tacitly gives it the go ahead. Come primary season, defectors would be challenged from the right and would be unlikely to survive.

Even though a Democratic-led petition may ultimately be more effective on immigration than it was on taxes, Boehner would have a huge incentive to use all his muscle to prevent Republicans from signing. Keeping House control is crucial to Boehner.

To the House, making 11 million aliens citizens is the most intolerable of dozens of intolerable provisions in the Senate legislation. The only reason that Republicans might want to facilitate passing S. 744 would be if they could somehow get the political credit. That won’t happen.

House Republicans considering jumping ship need to get serious. If they become enablers in legalizing illegal aliens, all the credit will go to the Gang of 8, Senate liberals and the White House. What turncoat Republicans would likely get is voted out of office.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]

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