Debt Ceiling Vote Shows the Way to Pass Immigration Reform – Or Else
Washington, DC – The House of Representatives yesterday passed a clean debt-ceiling bill, with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) assembling a coalition of 28 Republicans and 193 Democrats to get a clean extension passed. He ignored the “majority of the majority” non-rule – again – because failure to act on the debt ceiling would threaten the GOP’s future electoral prospects. Immediately after informing his caucus of his plans to move a clean bill, Speaker Boehner said to House Republicans, “I’m getting this monkey off your back and you’re not going to even clap?”
Speaker Boehner, a coalition of more than 218 votes exists for immigration reform in the House of Representatives today. Failure to act on it will threaten the GOP’s future electoral prospects. It’s time to get the immigration monkey off the GOP’s back.
It seems that many Republicans are focused on their electoral prospects in 2014, which at this point look bright. This has led to the argument that the GOP should avoid the issue this year and return to it in next Congress when they have stronger representation. But this scenario ignores the likely outcome of Republican intransigence on immigration reform this year. In early 2015, the race for the GOP presidential nomination will start and the candidates in a big and divided field will face growing pressure to tack right. Meanwhile, President Obama will face growing pressure to use his executive authority to grant millions of low-priority undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and work permits (similar to the relief granted DREAMers in 2012). So, what’s the most likely scenario in the run up to 2016? The President takes bold action, the Republicans try to overturn it, Democrats run on an immigration platform of “elect us and we’ll finish the job of enacting reform,” and once they control the White House and both chambers on the other side of 2016 they enact reform with minimal input from Republicans.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
When it comes to enacting immigration reform and sharing credit, it’s now or never for the Republican Party. If they get it done this year they will influence the policy outcome and rehabilitate their image with Latino, Asian-American and immigrant voters. If they block reform this year, they will cement their reputation as an anti-Hispanic, anti-Asian and anti-immigrant party, they will cede the initiative on policy to President Obama’s pen and phone, and they will find themselves overwhelmed by an electoral tsunami in 2016.
The clock is ticking and the toll is mounting. While House Republicans stall on immigration, the Republican brand among Latino voters is getting worse by the day. Not only are leading Spanish language voices condemning House Republicans for blocking reform in Congress, but national and state Republicans are actively advancing legislation targeting the immigrant community: in the U.S. Senate, two Republicans are pushing legislation targeting DREAMers – New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte’s proposal to make immigrant children ineligible for the child tax credit and Louisiana Senator David Vitter’s bill that would bar states from providing in-state tuition rates to immigrant youth. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a Republican state representative has introduced a bill which would make it illegal for certain immigrants to use any public resources, including driving on public roads or using a public bathroom. Meanwhile, notoriously hardliner Rep. Steve King thinks Speaker Boehner and GOP are handling immigration issues perfectly. This should make Republican strategists shudder.
The call to wait until after November’s elections is 100 percent pure stalling tactic. The day after the election, the 2016 presidential campaign begins. Immigration will become the issue Democrats use to clobber the GOP. They will have no incentive to deal. Now is the time.
Republicans passed a clean debt ceiling bill because their future depends on it. Republicans should pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship this year for the same reason.