You don’t have to be an opponent of immigration reform to know that how the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives intends to go about it is at best devious and cynical and at worst a prescription for kicking away a golden opportunity in the 2014 midterm elections.
The bosses of the GOP-bossed House intend to lay out a collection of principles at a retreat for the Republican caucus later this week, a prelude to introducing legislation as a more-or-less answer to the Gang of Eight bill that passed the U.S. Senate last year.
The first question is a tactical one: Why? Why do this now, with Democrats scrambling uphill against President Obama’s bad job-performance numbers; problems with the Affordable Care Act rollout (bulletin: it’s not just the web site that’s catastrophic); an economy struggling against regulation and uncertainty; and only three percent of Americans listing immigration reform as a top priority?
Instead of following Napoleon’s sage advice — when your opponent is self-destructing, stay out of his way — Republicans under Speaker John Boehner appear determined to wade into a swamp where no friendly creatures reside.
The second question is motivational: All to satisfy whom? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce? The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal? Their friends in the Senate, where two years of House-passed bills to boost the economy have gone to die?
Maybe Boehner and Co. are smarter than we think. Maybe breaking reform into a series of smaller, one-item bills will make the whole thing politically palatable. (Insert guffaw here.)
Of course they know better. House Republican leadership knows what it’s planning to do will infuriate a substantial portion of the party’s base. In an editorial posted Monday, National Review Online advised succinctly how to avoid the coming schism: “Don’t Do It.”
“This is legislative strategy as unforced error. …
“In the key contests that will decide partisan control of the Senate, Republican candidates are much more likely to be helped than hurt by refusing to sign onto any form of amnesty.”
That’s why, according to leaks out the House, legislation that is nearing readiness won’t be introduced until April, after the deadline for filing for primary elections has passed. As if, come November, voters outraged by a betrayal over amnesty will have had time to cool down, to come to their senses, and, Reagan-like, to come back to the candidates who represent 80 percent of what they believe.
Ask Mitt Romney how well that worked for him in Ohio in 2012.
Well. Two can play that cards-on-the-table game. Constituents who believe resistance to amnesty is worth fighting over should waste no time getting their GOP representative on the record about where he/she stands. For that matter, Pinellas voters with strong thoughts about the issue have a perfect message-sending opportunity in early March.
The last question is one of trust: Even if they say they are tempted — because, in their heart of hearts they think comprehensive reform, their way, would be good for the country (and I’m not saying it isn’t) — maybe Republicans should take a good, hard look at the fellow at the lectern Tuesday night. He’s not their pal. He’s not their ally. And they’re toking Colorado Sour Diesel if they think they can trust him to carry out the portions of any reform package he finds inconvenient.