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Immigration Reform’s Future? It’s About John Boehner, Not Bob Goodlatte

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goodlatte4It’s Time for the House Leadership to Lead, and It’s Time for Goodlatte to Get Out of the Way

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) effectively disqualified himself this week from a leadership role in the upcoming House immigration reform debate.  He made clear that he opposes an achievable pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and the rest of the 11 million, and he is comfortable that reform won’t happen this year.  If you’re about to engage in a battle to make history, you better find someone who knows what victory looks like and who actually wants to win.

What now?  Not to worry.  Getting to yes on immigration reform never depended on Bob Goodlatte.  Sure, he was trying to position himself so that the GOP could get to “no” but with a smiley face slapped on top.  But that audition is over.  Now it’s back to where it’s always been.  Getting to “yes” in the House depends on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and fellow House Republican leaders.

Now, it’s true that Speaker Boehner has painted himself into a corner with all his process concessions – piecemeal not comprehensive, Hastert Rule, regular order, “no” to taking up the Senate bill – but there is a way forward.  Here’s our suggestions for next steps: 1) when the August recess ends, talk to your members for whom immigration reform matters in their re-election; for the most part, they’ll tell you that all the energy is for reform and that the opposition is weak; 2) encourage the Gang of 7 to come out with their bipartisan legislation so members can respond to a specific proposal regarding legalization and paths to citizenship; 3) ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others to educate and whip the caucus to see how many votes there are (bet you it’s enough to hold a vote); 4) blow past Goodlatte and his efforts to undermine the leadership and propose a rule that allows the many pieces of legislation to be voted on during an immigration week; 5) work with the Democrats in the House to ensure support for key measures, agreement on process and a glide path to negotiations with the Senate; 6) pass a final bill with strong Republican and Democratic support in both chambers.

According to Frank Sharry of America’s Voice:

Speaker Boehner is and always has been the point person for immigration reform in the House.  Heading into the fall, he faces a choice of historic proportions.  He either leads the chamber to landmark immigration legislation, or he deepens the damage to the GOP brand for a generation.  With support for reform from across the country and across the political spectrum growing, and with the opposition marginalized, what is the Speaker afraid of?

Some ask, but what about the “Hastert Rule?  It should be called the “Hastert Excuse.”  Right now, today, a bipartisan majority exists in the House to enact reform with a path to citizenship.  Does Speaker Boehner really want to sacrifice the future of the GOP and thwart the majority of the House because of some made up procedural excuse?   Plus, he’s already disregarded the so-called “rule” three times this year.  As John Feehery, the Republican House leadership aide who coined the “Hastert Rule” phrase, told Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Speaker Boehner “ought to ditch the Hastert rule.”  As Ball wrote, “Given the current ‘ungovernable’ state of the House GOP caucus, he told me, Boehner must balance the risk to his own standing with the ‘larger reputational risk’ to the Republican Party.”

Others ask, doesn’t Rep. Goodlatte still have an important role to play?  He shouldn’t.  Not anymore.  Rep. Goodlatte has made it clear that he opposes a path to citizenship for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers – something that is at the heart of a bipartisan deal.  Rep. Goodlatte also signaled his intention to get to “no” on reform, expressing a desire to pretend to want a substantive fix more than actually wanting it.  Moreover, Rep. Goodlatte continues to champion hardline policies like the SAFE Act: Draconian, Arizona-like legislation that, in the words of the New York Timeswould turn millions of undocumented immigrants “into criminals overnight.”  The bill undercuts the Supreme Court, criminalizes immigrants and legalizes racial profiling.  There’s no place for such radical policies in bipartisan immigration reform.