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5 Reasons Republicans Should Make Immigration Next on the Congressional Agenda

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With the government shutdown over and fiscal impasse resolved for now, the congressional calendar again is primed for addressing immigration reform.  Here are five reasons why Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and House Republicans should pursue immigration reform this year:

1.     The Hastert Rule is Officially Dead:  The vote to resolve the fiscal and debt ceiling impasse was the fifth occasion just this year that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) disregarded the so-called “Hastert Rule” (the excuse that the House will only advance legislation that has support from a majority of House Republicans).  Earlier this month, Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast spoke with former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who said that “The Hastert Rule never really existed.  It’s a non-entity as far as I’m concerned…The real Hastert Rule is 218 [votes]…If we had to work with Democrats, we did.”  On that count, the votes are already there, as a bipartisan majority already exists in the House of Representatives to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
2.     Republicans Can Turn Around Plummeting Poll Numbers If They Step Up and Prove They Can Govern on Immigration: range of recent polling is unanimous in capturing how the past few weeks inflicted political damage on the Republican Party, with some observers noting that the Republican control of the House may be imperiled.  One of the most direct opportunities for Republicans to come back from their plummeting poll numbers and to protect their House majority is for Speaker Boehner to bring immigration reform forward.  Immigration reform could be a lifeline for a range of vulnerable House Republicans representing Latino-heavy districts where immigration is a top priority for constituents.  For example, of the  29 districts where PPP polling recently found a Democratic challenger leading the Republican House incumbent, 17 of those districts are included in theLatino Decisions “Latino Influence” analysis of congressional districts likely to see a competitive 2014 race and where Latino voters could influence the outcome.  
3.     Speaker Boehner Emerged from Fiscal Battles in Stronger Position with His Caucus – And With the Imperative to Pursue Immigration: Despite the tarnished brand image of the Republican Party, Speaker Boehner appears to have emerged in a stronger position within his caucus after the fiscal battles (see this Washington Post assessment that Boehner “earned goodwill” over the past few weeks).  Now, the question is what Speaker Boehner will do with this newfound capital?  This summer, Speaker Boehner warned “about the steep price of inaction” on immigration reform, and assessed that the House Republican majority would be “in a much weaker position” if it did not act on immigration legislation.  Now he has the opportunity.  Rep. Boehner would not only have the support of the public in pursuing reform, but also national GOP strategists and a contingent of Republican House members concentrated in Western states who need immigration reform to strengthen their re-election prospects and to deliver for their heavily Latino congressional districts.  For example, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) told the Las Vegas Sun regarding immigration, “For the House to have credibility, they have got to start moving stuff to the floor.”

4.     Political Survival in 2014 Will Trump GOP’s Anti-Obama Obsession: At the White House today, President Obama said, we should “Finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system” and called on the House of Representatives to pass reform, saying reform “can and should get done by the end of this year.”  Yet for many of the House Members who helped drive the shutdown in recent weeks, it seems as if the President wants something, they are against it.  For example, Tea Party Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) told Elise Foley at Huffington Post he was skeptical about reform prospects and said of President Obama, “I think what he has done over the past two and a half weeks — he’s trying to destroy the Republican Party.”  Yet it’s Rep. Labrador and his allies are the ones who seem hell-bent on destroying the Republican Party’s brand image, and they’re succeeding.  Following their advice further will only hurt the Party.  The window of opportunity to get immigration reform done is open and it’s in the GOP’s 2014 and longterm self-interest to seize the chance.

5.     Inaction on Immigration Comes at a Tremendous Cost:  Already Rightly Blamed for the Exorbitant Cost Of The Shut Down — Over $24 Billion And Counting — The House GOP Will Pay an Even Higher Price by Shutting Down Immigration Reform. The longer we delay on passing immigration reform, the greater the costs of inaction in human, economic, and political terms.  In human terms, the cost of inaction is inflicting a heavy toll.  Already, approximately 125,000 deportations have taken place since the Senate passed its immigration bill in June, including thousands who would have benefited from immigration reform.  In economic terms, after the shutdown inflicted an economic cost on the nation, immigration reform is poised to help grow the economy, reduce the deficit, bolster job creation, and strengthen the viability of Social Security and Medicare (according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the Senate immigration bill).  In political terms, inaction on immigration will exert a political cost on the Republican Party, harming them in 2014 and destroying the Party’s chances of winning for the White House in 2016.  As former Puerto Rican Governor and current Republican strategist Luis Fortuno recently told National Journal, “the party’s outreach to the fastest-growing slice of the electorate will fall short without immigration reform passing Congress.”