This past Tuesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner suggested that he would allow an immigration reform bill sponsored by the bipartisan ?Gang of Eight? to make it to the House floor. Boehner’s comments represent a sort of passive acceptance of the political necessity of supporting an immigration reform bill that would allow for a direct path to citizenship for undocumented workers currently in the U.S.
Hopefully Boehner’s reluctant acceptance represents a long-range plan that slowly integrates a more thoughtful and complete approach to immigration reform. As of now, the Republican Party’s staunchly conservative base disagrees with provisions that allow amnesty to those already living in the United States. Dissenting opinions typically argue that amnesty rewards those who have broken the law, and will only encourage illegal immigration in the future.
Despite party-base opposition, Congressional Republican leadership appears to have signaled that they are at least willing to bring the bill to the floor. The ability of a bill that offers a pathway to citizenship to make it through both the House and Senate is another story.
On Wednesday, Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz argued that immigration reform is being held up by the Obama administration, not the far right.
The biggest obstacle to passing common sense immigration reform is President Barack Obama.
Cruz was accused by ?Gang of Eight? member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of having ?Obamaphobia? and using the conversation to push forward an ?Obama-centric” message.
The comments made by both Boehner and Cruz appear to demonstrate a disconnect between party leadership and the party base. Boehner, however reluctant, appears willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the party. In this context, Cruz’s acceptance of his irrational fear of President Obama, and his open opposition to citizenship despite representing a state with the second largest immigrant population in the U.S., may actually allow the Republican’s to have the best of both worlds.
Boehner is wisely using party politics to allow the Republicans to opportunistically support or oppose comprehensive immigration. By allowing an immigration bill to come to the floor, Boehner can create a situation that allows Republicans to take credit for passing the bill, while allowing party members to oppose the bill for their more conservative constituencies. Boehner never promised that Republicans would vote for any bill ? only that he is optimistic that a bill will pass.
By putting a bill to the floor with a few moderate Republicans on board, the GOP can take credit for a bill in Washington supported mostly by Democrats, while criticizing any such bill simply because it is be supported by democrats to their constituents. Cruz, for example, may someday reap the benefits of the GOP’s support for immigration reform on a national level, while lambasting any such bill to the conservative constituents that fervently oppose immigration reform ? or bipartisanship in general.
Cruz’s anti-Obama comments can be seen in the same context. Menendez might have unknowingly given Cruz a talking point. That is, the blame-the-President-for-everything strategy isn’t nearly as effective on the national level at this point in Obama’s tenure, especially considering the President can do next to nothing to get Republicans to support a bill for immigration reform sponsored by Democrats. The bipartisan Gang of Eight was formed to circumvent this very issue. It is effective, at least for Cruz, to continue to use an anti-Obama message on a state and local level. When it comes to immigration reform, Republicans appear only interested in achieving political victory.
Edited and published by WP.