Will He Cave to the “Hell No Caucus” or Help GOP Pragmatists Desperate to Distance Themselves from Trump?
Washington, DC – As we head into December, it’s increasingly clear that, in the words of a headline from The Hill, “Congress is barreling toward explosive immigration fight.”
With all Democrats and many Republicans in favor of enacting legislation that provides Dreamers with meaningful relief, it’s clear that strong majorities exist in both chambers of Congress to get something done before the end of the year. However, House Republicans who strongly oppose relief for Dreamers – we call them the “Hell No Caucus” – seem to be gearing up to employ one of their favorite tactics: threaten the speakership of Paul Ryan unless he derails pro-immigrant legislation.
Will Ryan side with more moderate members who want to get something done, who vote for spending bills and whose elections in 2018 will determine if the GOP maintains a House majority? Or will Ryan side with those who hate immigrants, vote no on just about every spending bill and are prone to plot palace coups?
Ryan…is being pulled in different directions by his fractured conference. Moderate Republicans, who rarely go against GOP leaders, recently held a news conference calling for Ryan to act on DACA by the end of 2017. Centrists in theTuesday Group huddled last week with the New Democrat Coalition and agreed to find a bipartisan solution….one moderate Republican source even suggested centrists could take a harder line against their own leaders if Ryan doesn’t embrace a compromise soon.
But listening to moderates could mean the beginning of the end of Ryan’s speakership. Immigration has long been a toxic issue for Republicans. And conservatives made Ryan promise, when he became speaker, that he would never put an immigration bill on the floor that doesn’t have a majority of the majority.
Unless navigated skillfully by Ryan, this divide could mean everything from a Republican shutdown of the federal government to the end of Ryan’s speakership. Job one of the Republicans in charge of the Congress and the White House is to keep the lights on. That requires a spending bill to be passed by December 8th. If the Hell No Caucus continues their refusal to vote for spending bills, Democrats insist on the inclusion of the Dream Act, and Ryan sides with the Hell No Caucus, he will find it very difficult to keep the government open on his watch.
Yet Speaker Ryan should take note: the Republican voices counseling urgent action on Dream this year are largely comprised of reliable Republican votes for recent past spending bills. Meanwhile, the strident voices in opposition to resolving Dreamers’ status or attaching it to must-pass legislation are the very same thorns in the side of the Speaker who have frequently been “no” votes on past spending bills and omnibus roll calls. For example, House Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan (R-OH) said, “We do not want DACA on the [spending] bill. But Rep. Jordan and his ideological allies are among the contingent of consistent no votes on recent spending bills (see vote recaps from the short-term spending bill in September here and the May 2017 omnibus here ). And anti-immigrant loudmouth Rep. Steve King similarly voted against last May’s omnibus.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Which way, Paul Ryan? Are you going to side with House GOP pragmatists who are desperate to get something done and distinguish themselves from a very unpopular President? Or are you going to cave to hardliners in safe seats who are responsible for making your life miserable and giving leverage to Democrats? To put it more bluntly, are you interested in doing the right thing, protecting Dreamers and potentially saving your speakership by maintaining your majority? Or are you more interested in placating the Hell No Caucus and potentially staving off a Freedom Caucus uprising?
Our view is clear. We strongly urge Speaker Ryan to keep the government open and avoid a Republican-inflicted shut down by siding with the GOP pragmatists. The vast majority of Americans – from across the political spectrum – support relief. Democrats have been and are ready to move forward. In fact, they’ve been calling for action on behalf of Dreamers since September. It’s time for Republicans to do their job, pass the Dream Act and take responsibility for keeping the federal government open. Speaker Ryan, it’s time to get on the right side of history.
Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice
America’s Voice– Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform