By Frank Sharry, La Prensa San Diego
Conservative journalist Byron York of the Washington Examiner has an interesting piece entitled, “How 30 House Republicans are forcing the Obamacare fight.” In it, he states:
“There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing, and perhaps even eager, to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare. On the other side, insiders estimate about 30 House Republicans believe strongly that Obamacare is such a far-reaching and harmful law that the GOP should do everything it can – everything – to stop it or slow it down.”
Sound familiar? Just swap out every “Obamacare” reference for “immigration reform.” The ability of House radicals to make the House GOP dysfunctional has led many to declare immigration reform all but dead.
Nevertheless, we remain optimistic. For one, smart House Republicans understand that their party is careening toward an existential moment of truth. The nation is experiencing a demographic transformation and the GOP either adapts to this reality or ceases to be a viable national party. The 2012 election made it clear that a whites-only electoral strategy is a prescription for defeat. Inaction on immigration will only hasten the GOP’s demise. The disaster that is currently unfolding with the government shutdown is likely to embolden the modernizers to stand up to the radicals.
For another, Republicans are steadily moving away from their prior position of “self-deportation” and towards legalization. As Maria Santos of the Weekly Standard highlights, there are scores of GOP House Members ready to bolt from the shackles of the “30 Republicans” and move immigration reform forward. She writes:
“84 House Republicans have publicly voiced support for granting some type of legal status to the 11 million immigrants here in the country illegally, and 20 others have said they would be willing to consider it – many more than what most media reports suggest… Speaker John Boehner has said he will not bring up any bill that does not have majority support from at least 118 Republicans.
Republicans will insist on securing the border and maintaining respect for the law, and most will refuse liberals’ calls for pathways to citizenship. But, with over 100 open to legalization, and still others who have not explicitly opposed it, a path to legalization might not be far away.”
Since there are ways to square Republican support for a path to legal status that has “no special path to citizenship” with our goal of an achievable citizenship option for all those legalized, this movement is significant. It strongly suggests that a near-majority of House Republicans are open to an approach towards the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America that could serve as the basis for bipartisan negotiations with Democrats and bicameral negotiations with the Senate.
Moreover, it underscores what advocates have been saying for some time now: right now we have the 218 votes in the House of Representatives to enact common sense immigration reform with an inclusive legalization program and an achievable roadmap to citizenship. Now it’s up to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to find a way for the modernizers to move forward rather than remain hogtied by the 30 Republican radicals.
As the shutdown proves, when Speaker Boehner and his fellow House leaders allow Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his 29 friends to run the Republican Caucus, the GOP loses. If he does the same on immigration reform, the Party is headed for oblivion. It’s time for the modernizers in the House GOP to step up and take control of their caucus and set a new direction of the GOP. Nothing less than the future of their party hangs in the balance.
This commentary originally appeared on americasvoiceonline.org
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