Will Boehner Move On Immigration Reform?

[ Posted Monday, December 16th, 2013 – 16:55 UTC ]

There seems to be an interesting round of speculation taking place in Washington over whether Speaker John Boehner will move on immigration reform in the House next year, and (if so) when he would do so. The story, at heart, is part of the ongoing civil war between the Tea Party and the Establishment Republicans, which is why it is such a fascinating question to even contemplate.

The conventional thinking, up until now, has been that Boehner has been slow-walking immigration reform all year because he doesn't want to see it succeed. Now that he has successfully punted it into the 2014 session of Congress, it will be allowed to quietly wither and die, since "it's an election year" and everyone knows nothing of importance gets done in even-numbered years in Washington. But now a counter-story has emerged: Boehner is going to use his new-found support in the House to reach a compromise with Democrats some time next year. Perhaps he will make this move before or during the crucial primary season, or perhaps he is waiting until just after primary season ends to do so. Which one you believe, at the moment, depends on whose version of this rumor you buy into.

Here's the version which sets the date early next year, from a story on intra-Republican squabbling between Tea Party and other ultraconservative outside groups and the Establishment Republicans, led by Boehner (emphasis added):

In the recent dust-up over the budget deal, the outside groups suspect that Boehner has a hidden motive. They suggest he's anxious to put economic fights in the rear-view mirror so he can tackle contentious immigration legislation early next year, before the first round of March primaries in Texas and Illinois.

The groups' suspicions were heightened by the recent high-profile budget success of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who favors a way out of the shadows for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. in violation of the law, and in Boehner's hire of a Senate staffer who worked on bipartisan immigration legislation for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"It's very easy to see that they want to clear a lane to pass amnesty," said Daniel Horowitz, policy director for the Madison Project, who described the overall differences with Republican leaders as irreconcilable.

But there is another version of this rumor making the rounds, as well: Boehner will wait until after the primary dust has settled, and then he will move on immigration reform.

If the "before the primaries" version is correct, then John Boehner will be actively fomenting fighting in his own party's ranks, just before the primaries happen. If this is true, then Boehner will be presenting himself (and his Establishment candidates, by extension) as leading a party which can indeed get things done, and which did indeed learn a few lessons from the 2012 election. Boehner will throw the Tea Partiers under the bus as a direct challenge to their greatest political weapon -- the Tea Party primary candidates that elected Republicans have been quaking in fear over for the past few years. Boehner will champion reasonableness and compromise with Democrats in a much-needed effort to drag his party back to the center of American politics, and away from the fringe. By helping mainstream Republican candidates show that they can indeed get things done in Washington, he will blunt the edge of the radicals screaming to shut everything down as their only go-to option. This, no doubt, could help the Republican Party's chances in the general election and position them a lot better for the 2016 race.

But this construct lacks a certain degree of common sense. Republican primary voters, after all, are not exactly known for rewarding centrism and compromise -- especially not when it happens weeks before they vote. The "Boehner will move before the primaries" way of thinking ignores this disconnect entirely. Which is why the "Boehner will move after the primaries" story makes a lot more political sense, at least to me.

If Boehner were to move on immigration after the bulk of the primary season is over, he'd only have a short window to do so. Conventional wisdom is right (to a point) about "big things don't happen in election years," after all. It's pretty hard to see Boehner scheduling a vote on sweeping immigration reform after, say, Congress' August break. Which means Boehner would have to move on a very tight schedule, from the end of the primaries through the end of July (at the latest).

Boehner has already ruled out the simple expedient of just bringing up the wildly bipartisan Senate immigration bill for a vote in his own chamber. The House, he has sworn, will come up with their own version of the bill. Or "bills" -- as House Republicans seem to think having a bunch of smaller bills is somehow superior to one large bill (for their own arcane reasons). None of these bills has yet made it out of committee, though. Which means they'd have to start moving them pretty quickly next year, one by one. This could push the entire effort back, right smack into the primary season, if Boehner isn't careful.

But assuming he can thread this legislative needle, Boehner would be a lot more politically savvy by hitting the window between the primaries and the summer break. This way, the threat of "being primaried" would be at its lowest possible ebb for his fellow Republicans. It would be almost two full years before that would even be possible, if the 2014 primary season has just closed. This might allow more Republicans to consider voting for such a proposal -- knowing they'd be safe from the primary threat for another two years (and knowing how short voters' memories are). Politically, this makes a lot more sense than holding such a vote right before the primary elections.

Now, I have no idea which route John Boehner will take: bury immigration reform completely next year, vote on it early, or vote on it after the primaries. If I were John Boehner, I would be attempting to repair my party's image with Latino voters (to lay some groundwork for the 2016 election) by rebranding Republicans as in favor of sensible immigration reform. I would lay low during the primaries, and then hold votes immediately afterwards. This would lessen the political damage that could be done to any individual Republican member, for the maximum amount of time. But then, obviously, I am not John Boehner. So who knows which way he'll jump?

We are still in the realm of rumor and speculation when it comes to what the House will do (or not do) on immigration reform next year. The conventional wisdom of "nothing will get done" appears to be the safest bet at this point. But maybe the rumors are correct, and maybe John Boehner is going to show some serious leadership on the issue next year. Maybe the new spirit of comity which emerged from the budget negotiations is a harbinger of good things to come. If the Republican Party could manage to hit "reset" on their immigration stance, it certainly would change the dynamics of the next few elections in a major way. The risks of Boehner making the attempt are pretty obvious within his own ranks (see: earlier quote, casually using the word "amnesty"). But the possible rebranding benefit for the Republican Party if Boehner succeeds could be a pivotal point in electoral politics. So it will definitely be interesting to watch, as events unfold.

-- Chris Weigant


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


14 Comments on “Will Boehner Move On Immigration Reform?”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ya know, all this talk about the GOP Civil War has always had a familiar ring to it..

    Then it hit me..

    It's virtually IDENTICAL to all the talk of the Dem Party Civil War during the 2008 Primary.... THAT Civil War was much MUCH worse, as you had Dem on Dem racism accusations...

    My point??

    The Democratic Party did pretty well for itself in the aftermath of that Civil War... Much to the {future} chagrin of this country..

    I have no doubt that this GOP "Civil War" will likely not have any deleterious effects on the future of the GOP...


  2. [2] 
    Pastafarian Dan wrote:

    Or a third option to Boehner bringing immigration up.....if the Dems do well in the election he might bring it up during the lame-duck session. Particularly if the Dems take back the House (I know it's unlikely, but we can dream can't we?)as a means to give himself some sort of "legacy" since he would then never again become Speaker.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ya'all gotta ask yerselves one question..

    If, all of the sudden, 11 millions illegals become legal members of the US workforce, who's jobs do ya'all think they are going to take first???

    I'll give ya'all a hint..

    It will be the groups who are ALREADY seeing 15%-20% unemployment right now...

    Democrats are sometimes their own worst enemies that can't see past the next election...


  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CW - Another excellent column. It took me three cups of coffee to think it all through. Here’s my take:

    Boehner is an Establishment Republican who rose through the ranks to become Speaker in the traditional Republican fashion. He has no comfort with either insurrection or populism, both of which he views as bad for business. He envisions the Republican Party as national, not regional party because the big corporate playing field is national and international. This is in his DNA (which has been successfully cloned by Proctor and Gamble). Make no mistake, he would love to throw the Tea Party under the bus, and work the gear shift, gas pedal and clutch. Maybe bounce up and down a bit in the seat.

    The timing is one problem, but political muscle is another. The strength of the Tea Party Wing depends upon ideologically oriented groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, Heritage Action, Madison Project and Club for Growth that can quickly raise substantial money to throw into targeted congressional primaries and elections. If Boehner is to win, he needs to convince his national big corporate constituency to organize to out spend and out organize/advertise the Tea Party every time it challenges the Republican Establishment. The Speaker's timidity with respect to the Tea Party suggests (to me) he hasn’t solved this problem to his satisfaction, but recent feistiness could be a sign that significant progress has been made, or is about to be made (probably at that Wizard of Oz inspired fortress that shows up in so many Simpsons episodes).

    Another question is whether Boehner should launch his offensive on the Immigration Reform front. It’s not going to do him and the Establishment GOP any good if it doesn’t convert or attract Latino Republican voters. Is immigration reform really what’s holding Latinos back from the Republican fold? Michael says yes, but I have my doubts. Then there’s the blow back problem. What if the Tea Party wing bolts the Republican tent for a nice sulk on the lawn? You can bet a lot of numbers are getting crunched by Boehner’s staff.

    Returning to timing, if Boehner thinks he has sufficient financial and organizational backing, and can demonstrate this convincingly to the insurrectionists, he should strike early, in hope of achieving a relatively clean political kill. Offer the hand in conciliation to the base, and give up some old time social conservatism sweeteners post primary season. Half a loaf is better than none. If he goes late, he gets two years of relative peace and maybe a legacy to put on his mantel, but the “stab in the back” aspects of this gambit could alienate the Republican base for generations, or maybe give rise to a genuine regionally oriented third party Tea Party plus a diminished Republican Establishment Party. This strikes me as a huge downside risk, and Boehner strikes me as a risk averse kind of guy.

    Boehner would do well to keep is options open and float a lot of trial balloons. I think we’re seeing this.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, now we know that Democrats will side with illegal immigrants over American Veterans who have actually SERVED this country...

    I wish I could say I was surprised..


  6. [6] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Michale, you got some 'splaing to do....

    but then again nothing Washington does surprises me.

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Michale, you got some 'splaing to do....

    Not really...

    This CongressCritter is willing to cut Vet benefits, NOT in favor of illegals, but rather to increase military readiness is simply following the military mindset..

    "You keep your priorities clear. Your mission and your men."
    -Gene Hackman, CRIMSON TIDE


  8. [8] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    This CongressCritter is willing to cut Vet benefits, NOT in favor of illegals, but rather to increase military readiness is simply following the military mindset

    I guess I have never encountered said mindset. What I have encountered however are republican congresscritters who are more than willing to override the JCS when they come up with a plan to cover these cuts in the existing budget, typically these overrides are to retain obsolete weapons platforms that they receive large donations from defense contractors for and to receive federal largess for their states.

    I have witnessed BOTH sides of the isle jumping up and down about bills like you just mentioned for illegals and turning right around to vote for the same cuts because they were proposed by one of their own party members in a different bill.

    Somehow this behavior no longer shocks me it just disappoints me, it is not surprising that a bunch of rich cats beholden to richer cats who have never served find it easy to rewrite the terms of a contract AFTER the service has been performed.

    To be perfectly clear it is NEVER ok to cut Vets benefits, especially when you already can't deliver on the basics that were promised.

    “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” —Winston Churchill

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    To be perfectly clear it is NEVER ok to cut Vets benefits, especially when you already can't deliver on the basics that were promised.

    As you say, you don't understand the mindset. I am assuming that is because you have never served..

    I, on the other hand, am a veteran of both the US Air Force and the US Army. I was an USAF cop and SPOSI and then was an Army EllTee (MI) during Desert Storm..

    And the mindset is of "Your Mission And Your Men" is perfectly valid..

    Is it OK to cut Vet benefits if it affects the mission of the military?

    Damn skippy it is..

    And ya know what..

    Those vets would tell you the EXACT same thing...


  10. [10] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    As you say, you don't understand the mindset. I am assuming that is because you have never served..

    I invite you to walk the above statement back, sir....

    I am a vet of ODS, and prior to that Panama, and this little thing we did in Libya.

    What I said was that I have neverencountered the mindset. I will freely admit I should have used not instead of never and the word recently at the end of the sentence. My bad...I will chalk it up to insufficient caffeine.

    In my post military career I am still heavily involved in the defense community providing services to the Navy in non-military ports and overwhelmingly the "boots" on the ground have a very dim view of Washington and the current situation that has been created as a result of Washington's actions.

    When it became apparent that force draw-downs and pay-cuts and benefit reductions were going to be an inevitable part of the sequester all of the branches of the armed forces came to the table with clear budget reductions to the tune of 4+ billion dollars to offset the raw sequester cuts and allow the armed forces to do the required force reductions in a structured and logical fashion that would not create a hazard to current troop readiness. Granted this token amount would only help for the first year or two of sequester and after year two the math was getting hazy. Unfortunately for both AD and Vets congress did not accept these cuts (which were all from cancellation of obsolete weapons platforms and deferment of new equipment). Congress instead acted in their own greedy self-interest and imposed their budget.

    I don't know about how the Army or AF is handling this but over in the Navy this has resulted in a poor morale climate due to the fact that the force reductions as mandated have resulted in larger ERB pools that have no one from the local commands or rates participating in the reduction process, combined with tougher and more unfulfillable PTS criterion, resulting in sailors who are highly skilled and proficient at their jobs being discharged over other sailors who have the same time in but are not as well trained or proficient, but look better on paper. Let's combine that with cuts to the vets benefits and the result is a lot of service members feeling betrayed and asking ,as we do in the Navy, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...

    So this brings us to the "Providing for the Common Defense act" which does nothing more than shift the defense cuts to other areas of government spending (I.E. Vets benefits) and enables the current pet project spending that a small group in congress likes and wants. It does less than a speck on a flea's ass on a speck on a hair on the scrotum of an elephant to reform the status quo,and enhance rediness, and only continues the poor morale climate.

    Now it has been awhile but...I was always taught that morale is part of the "your men and your mission" mindset in my leadership classes, healthy morale is key to getting the most out of the troops. Note the use of the word healthy vs good here. So now that we have these needless cuts that effect troop readiness, and people wondering if they are going to get what they signed on for and what they thought the government had agreed to give them. Which brings me to my initial statement of "To be perfectly clear it is NEVER ok to cut Vets benefits, especially when you already can't deliver on the basics that were promised." which I stand by 100%. Why is it okay to change the contract you made after the fact? If it is NOT ok for me to change the terms of my contracts with people who hire me , my home loan, my car payments AFTER the fact why is it ok for the Government to do so?

    Is it ok to change vets benefits on a going forward basis?

    As you would say Damn Skippy it is...point being that at some point vets have to stop being punching bags that support current poor spending habits as mandated by congress. It only enhances readiness and retention when our troops can have trust in the terms of service they agreed to. Without that trust we will only get to choose from those who have no other option.

    If externalities were different and we had a real crisis that was driving these budget shortfalls mandating the cuts I might be inclined to agree with your position a bit more and yes we as Vets would step up to the plate, but that is quite simply not the case here.

    So to reword slightly... Is it OK to cut Vet benefits if the cuts themselves affect the mission of the military?

    Fuck No.....

    And ya know what....

    Those vets would tell you the EXACT same thing...

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    I am a vet of ODS, and prior to that Panama, and this little thing we did in Libya.

    I stand corrected. Your previous posts gave indication that you hadn't served..

    I sincerely apologize for the assumption..

    So to reword slightly... Is it OK to cut Vet benefits if the cuts themselves affect the mission of the military?</I.

    The cuts to veterans won't affect the mission of the military.

    Do you honestly believe that the grunts in the foxholes (yes, they still use foxholes) are thinking ahead a year, two years, 10 years and worrying about if their benefits are going to be cut??

    Trust me when I say this that those troops out in the foxholes are worrying about surviving the day!

    And, if the REMFs are more worried about a veteran having a colonscopy more so than whether or not the troops on the front line have adequate body armour or enough ammo....

    Well, how do you think THAT is going to affect the mission..

    Put another way...

    Ask any VA vet, "Well, old timer.. You can have a new prosthetic leg or we can send ten thousand trauma plates to Bagram or KwangJu..".....

    What do you think that vet will say??

    I know what *I* would say if I were that old vet...

    And I think I am pretty typical of this nation's veterans...


  12. [12] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Thanks, all fair in political debate and war...I am a highly conflicted person politics wise. I am however very equal opportunity oriented and hate ALL politicians equally.

    Do you honestly believe that the grunts in the foxholes (yes, they still use foxholes) are thinking ahead a year, two years, 10 years and worrying about if their benefits are going to be cut??

    No, I don't believe that, as a matter of fact there were times I had my questions if I would make it back to the deck alive, but therein lies the rub. Under the artificial crisis and forced inflexible cuts that congress has mandated the worry happens when troops return from deployment and are told they will more than likely have to face the dreaded ERB or be Perform To Served out. At this point due to the fact that congress has opted to not pass legislation that would make it easier for many service people to transfer their skills to civilian jobs our service members not only have to worry about potentially having their career ended against their will, they get to also worry about weather or not the VA is going to uphold it's commitment to them...Great welcome home gift if you ask me.

    And, if the REMFs are more worried about a veteran having a colonscopy more so than whether or not the troops on the front line have adequate body armour or enough ammo....

    This kind of glosses over the point I have been pounding out that the Pogues in DC have thoroughly ignored the pentagons plan which addressed the cuts in a smarter fashion than the one congress imposed. At least under the pentagon plan bases were covered for a couple of years giving them time to try and figure out a more long term solution. Instead what we have is 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound rucksack that screws everyone except congress and their interests.

    Ask any VA vet, "Well, old timer.. You can have a new prosthetic leg or we can send ten thousand trauma plates to Bagram or KwangJu..".....

    What do you think that vet will say??

    Of course we are going to make sure that those currently putting their ass on the line get what they need....but the guy waiting for his first prosthetic and basic treatment is asking why can't it be both....

    I would argue that I too am representative of our vets. I have a feeling that we just have different benefit packages.

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    "I like all you navy boys. Every time we have to go fight, ya'all give us a ride."
    -Keifer Sutherland, A FEW GOOD MEN


    Please don't take offense... I just couldn't resist the quote..

    *I* don't believe for a second that being a squid is any less dangerous than any of the other services.. Even in the Air Force, we had to deal with some real stressful times. Why, once, I actually had to drive a patrol unit that did NOT have air conditioning!! Can you imagine!!??? :D

    All service is honorable..

    As to the issue at hand, we overall agree it's just some of the details that are iffy..

    I am certain you would agree, however, that cutting Vet benefits and leaving welfare support for illegals intact is far FAR different than cutting Vet benefits for the sake of the military mission..


  14. [14] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    2. A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn't know what's going on
    The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries


    No offense taken...I'm used to the jabs from those who suffer from "Navy envy". It's sad but true that not everyone can join the only completely self contained armed force, we have a kick ass air force, one hell of an army, and thanks to our ships we can use all of those tools to take care of any threat that absolutely, and positively must be destroyed.Oh, almost forgot we have a pretty decent football team as well.

    I knew you guys over in the AF had some serious problems...I could not even begin to imagine the stress of driving without AC. That puts it all in context for me, shit I had it pretty good comparatively speaking, I got paid to go swimming every so often, me and my buddies were allowed to go for a quickie to pick up some of our mates that kept getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, hell every now and then they would even let me send it downrange with a really big gun. I thought I knew what stress was but I guess this airdale never experienced the stress you speak of...

    I think overall we are on the same page...the details however are very iffy...

    I'm certain you would agree that the Bridenstine legislation is also not needed at this time as the climate that is driving this legislation is artificially created.

    When one considers that congress has given themselves a payraise, left intact corporate subsidies that many of them benefit directly from, and they have overridden the pentagon's plan to offset these cuts by forcing the pentagon to spend money on things congress wants but the pentagon doesn't. It is wrong to be cutting vets benefits.

    If congress wants to cut vet benefits under the guise of mission impact, than they had better have eliminated the corporate subsidies that they have created for themselves, taken a huge paycut, and cleaned up some of the waste that they have created in the pentagon budget, and sure while they are at it go ahead and close the loophole. Once they have done all of that and cuts still need to be made I will not like it but I will support it.

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