If Speaker John Boehner is to be taken at his word, the House GOP may have just made a critical decision that is both good policy and good politics. A couple of weeks ago I posted about the growing pressure from the Senate Gang of [your number here] led by the odious John McCain and the duplicitous Lindsey Graham to legalize some millions of illegal immigrants living within the United States [see Immigration Reform: One Tiny Step at a Time]. At that time, John McCain was advocating a “pass the bill to find out what’s in it strategy” of having the House pass something that the Senate would replace in conference with the S. 744, a bill that is some 1200 pages long and among other things defines the minimum wage for various agricultural workers and makes Nevada a border state.
McCain said the outside groups have failed to push hard enough on the legislation.
“They’ve got to be more active to put pressure on these members of Congress to pass something,” he said after an event at the City Club of Chicago. “Just pass something, then we’ll go to conference with it.”
According to McCain, legalizing some 11 million plus immigrants, many with little to no education and minimal skills, and opening the cornucopia of government subsidies to them was a sure way for the GOP to become competitive for the Hispanic vote. To his credit, Speaker Boehner has pulled the plug on this bit of legislative legerdemain:
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that the House will not enter negotiations with the Senate to hash out differences between its immigration plans and the Senate immigration bill — dealing a significant blow to the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform by this Congress.
“The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House,” Boehner said. “And frankly, I’ll make clear that we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”
To a great extent the GOP suffers from the same problem that former Israeli Prime Minister Abba Eban attributed to the Palestinians: We never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. With Obamacare set to be the slow motion Chernobyl of domestic policy, the GOP Establishment was pushing to address an non-problem, and not only a non-problem but one where the GOP is not unified.
George Will, the faux conservative columnist to advocated voting for a Democrat astroturf candidate in the Virginia governor’s race, is advocating turning this all over to that master strategerist Mitch McConnell (as an aside Will refers to McConnell as the greatest Kentuckian since Henry Clay, inexplicably ignoring Colonel Harlan Sanders):
Immigration reforms should address three problems — border security (the least important problem; about 40 percent of those here illegally came on visas they overstayed), the needs of America’s workforce and the status of the 11 million here illegally. If McConnell were majority leader, the bill would be broken into manageable bits, and there might be found a different majority coalition for each.
But the majority leader is a Democrat (Harry Reid from the border state of Nevada) whose party has one overriding interest: turning as many of the 11 million into voters as fast as possible. They are holding all immigration reforms hostage to this objective. Which shall be the case unless and until McConnell is majority leader.
The House GOP should think twice about using this strategy.
The problem with any large and complex system is that the parts are interactive. There is a good reason why you don’t attempt to repair your car’s engine, or fix a flat, while traveling down the interstate at warp speed. We can debate whether the three problems Will addresses are actually the most important ones, I’m not sure I agree, but the first step has to be to set out a list of priorities that we can all agree on.
The GOP should identify discrete parts of the problem, legislate the necessary changes to one specific issue, monitor the progress, and once satisfied that the policy objective is being achieved move on to the next problem. Passing a slew of small bills that add up to comprehensive immigration reform, particularly under someone as compromised as Mitch McConnell, is just the recipe for disaster.
We’re often accused of being too critical of GOP congressmen and senators, so this would be a good opportunity to take to Twitter or email or the phones and let Speaker Boehner know that killing this nonsense was a great first step in fixing a broken immigration and naturalization system.