On June 27, 2013, the US Senate passed with a strong bipartisan vote (68-32), a comprehensive immigration bill. As is customary, this legislation was then sent on to the House. There, it could have been approved “as is”, amended, or tabled. The latter is what Speaker Boehner chose to do. He justified his delay by saying that a matter this important needed to be set aside until after the midterm election which, at the time, was a full 16 months away. (1) He assured everyone that come January 2015 when the new Congress was seated, the House would write its own comprehensive immigration bill; a statement that is code for “the Senate bill is unacceptable”. (2)
Now, fast-forward to the near-term. The president has made an unqualified promise that he will unilaterally take whatever action he legally can, to make our current immigration policy and laws fairer. His pledge was met with everything from outright anger from the likes of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to thinly veiled threats that if Obama does indeed act by means of Executive Order(s) he will be “playing with fire” (Speaker Boehner).
As regards the question of the need for immigration reform, poll results show that the public is solidly in favor of it. They see the presence of illegals as a problem that should be dealt with in a thorough fashion that includes such things as a path to citizenship, the securing of our borders, and the enforcement of existing laws that prohibit their hiring with punishment for offending employers. Interestingly, the aforementioned Senate bill, hits on all these points, albeit imperfectly. But to get that bill passed, compromises had to be made. Under that circumstance, the bill that passed was about as good as could be attained. (3)
President Obama has yet to lay out in detailed fashion, exactly what he would do via Executive Order. But he has said that whatever he does can be wiped away as soon as the Senate and House have an agreed-upon bill on his desk for signature. In other words, whatever the president does will be temporary and void the minute the two chambers come together, unified, with comprehensive immigration legislation.
Here’s a safe bet: No matter what Obama does; no matter how legal and minimalist, he will be assailed. Calls in the House for his impeachment will intensify. While Speaker Boehner will countenance the vitriol, he wants no part of impeachment as we now head towards the 2016 election. So, he is going to have his hands full quieting the bellowing for the present’s head on a stake posted somewhere along Pennsylvania Avenue. (4).
Looked at flippantly, this would all promise us great “theater”. But, this is very serious stuff and the first test of whether or not Republicans can actually govern, something that Boehner has thus far proven himself incapable of doing as he has consistently put his party’s cohesion ahead of the needs of the country.
This Obama vs. Boehner confrontation over immigration will be playing itself out in the weeks and months ahead. If the president sticks to his word and acts before the end of the year, then the first flash-point will have occurred and the ball will be in the Speaker’s court. Watch and listen as this drama unfolds.
1. The Speaker tabled this matter rather than act because he feared that whatever the House did might hurt the GOP come November 2014.
2. There exists, a sizable minority of very vocal House Republicans who do not want immigration reform at all!!! They are members of the Tea Party Caucus.
3. There is an old saying in politics that when it comes to getting a bill passed, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
4. Remember “Impeachment Lite” a blog posted at this site some months ago? It dealt with Boehner’s buying off of his Tea Party members by moving forward with a law suit against the president instead of the impeachment that was being demanded. It has now turned out that two law firms have refused to take the Speaker’s case and the basis for the suit has been called into serious question by legal scholars. It Boehner can’t successfully use those developments to hush the impeachers, he will either give them their way or face a vote of no-confidence in his “leadership” to the extent that it exists at all.