GOP Warned Split On Immigration Costly

Ronald Reagan once explained a dispute within his party as "Sometimes our right hand doesn't know what our far right hand is doing."

That helps explain how today's Republicans are dealing with immigration reform.

A comprehensive bipartisan bill passed the Senate last year and there was a feeling of momentum since the GOP's post-2012 "autopsy" of its defeat concluded it needed immigration reform to attract Hispanic voters, who had given Barack Obama 72 percent of their votes.

Florida freshman Senator Marco Rubio was for reform before he was against it.  He helped craft the Senate compromise bill but when Tea Party followers harshly criticized him — and blocked any House action — he beat a hasty retreat, terrified of what it might mean for his presidential ambition.

House Speaker John Boehner talks a lot about passing immigration reform, usually piecemeal, but he runs into the same opposition that scared off Rubio.  He understands the need to act and knows it could pass the House if brought to a vote, but lacks he the courage to buck his party's far right. 

Latest to weigh in is that old bunch of left-wingers,  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  I'm kidding about the liberal part; this is the entrenched business and banking backbone of the GOP establishment.  

Chamber President Tom Donohue on Monday again called for his party to enact immigration reform.

"If the Republicans don't do it, they shouldn't bother to run a candidate in 2016," he said.  "I mean, think about that.  Think about who the voters are."

Democrats have mixed emotions on this one.  They'd like to see the bill pass but they know the GOP refusal even to bring it to a vote will help them keep Hispanic and Latino loyalty in the next election and possibly for years to come. Just ask Mitt Romney what they thought of his advice about self-deportation.

"I do believe that we're absolutely crazy if we don't take advantage of having passed an immigration bill out of the Senate," Donohue said. "Because going back and doing it again might be harder. Do something rational in the House and put it together, and let's get the three or four things we really need there. And we've got a lot of heat on that and we're going to put a lot more."

When Boehner teased his colleagues a couple of weeks ago for whining about the fact they couldn't tackle a tough topic like immigration reform, Politico reported, the far right exploded in anger.

"They are stepping up their efforts to thwart any plan that might be afoot among House leadership to jam reform through the House by the end of this year," according to Politico. 

Speaking for the lunatic fringe, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said, "We have to man the watchtowers 24/7" to make sure those lefties like Boehner don't try to sneak something through.

This sounds like a good time for Democrats to heed Napoleon's advice: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.