Republicans walked away from their 2012 debacle hell-bent on fixing their problems with Hispanics. Now, they appear hell-bent on making them worse.
In private conversations, top Republicans on Capitol Hill now predict comprehensive immigration reform will die a slow, months-long death in the House. Like with background checks for gun buyers, the conventional wisdom that the party would never kill immigration reform, and risk further alienating Hispanic voters, was always wrong — and ignored the reality that most House Republicans are white conservatives representing mostly white districts. These members, and the vast majority of their voters, couldn’t care less whether Marco Rubio, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove say this is smart politics and policy.
. But after holding countless listening sessions, it is clear to these leaders that getting even smaller, popular pieces of reform will be a tough sell. The House plans a piecemeal approach: a border-security bill this month, maybe one or two items a month in the fall.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) held a town meeting last week where 25 of the 100 people spoke out on immigration — and every single one of them argued for staying clear of anything remotely resembling the Senate-passed bill.
“Our constituents don’t trust our government,” Cotton said. And he is reluctant to pass even pieces of immigration reform that he thinks are needed — like a better tracking system for people in the country on visas — because he is concerned they could become “a Trojan horse in a conference committee for a package that puts legalization first and enforcement later.”
Top Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill see the momentum swinging decidedly against getting a deal this Congress. Rubio persuaded only 13 fellow Republican senators to back the bill; the editors of the National Review and Weekly Standard offered a rare, joint editorial in opposition to it this week; and private GOP headcounts show only a small fraction of House Republicans would ever vote for anything approximating the Senate deal.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a leader of the House’s hell-no-on-immigration-reform caucus, held a jam-packed meeting Monday night to walk through why his party should proudly defeat the bipartisan bill. King said the Senate’s immigration plan would help “elites who want cheap labor, Democratic power brokers, and those who hire illegal labor.”
“It would hurt Republicans, and I don’t think you can make an argument otherwise,” King said. “Two out of every three of the new citizens would be Democrats.” Some might dismiss this as the rantings of a bombastic right-winger — but his take is mainstream theology among House Republicans.
By Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei/Politico