December 5, 2014

Is Republican Amnesty Opposition a Fig Leaf?

Congress dances around the issue through budgeting.

The battle over illegal immigration has been raging for years, so it’s no surprise that the issue is at the forefront in Washington. The main driver now, of course, is Barack Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty order and the Republican plan to stop it.

In the spring and summer of 2013, Congress seemed on its way to passing amnesty with the “Gang of Eight” bill. But while the Senate sold out, the House stood strong. Since then, the lower chamber has been the backstop against Democrats’ desire to add a huge new class of government-dependent voters to its ranks, as well as an influx of low-wage workers to satisfy big business interests such as those represented by the national Chamber of Commerce.

The House’s unwillingness to bend to Barack Obama’s demands led the president to break his constitutionally sworn oath to faithfully execute the laws by unilaterally giving “permisos” to nearly five million illegal immigrants, for whom existing immigration law would not be enforced.

That planned back-door amnesty, when coupled with the ongoing budgeting by continuing resolution (CR) that expires next week, gave Republicans an opportunity to flex their muscles going into a term in which they will regain the majority in the Senate to match the one they currently enjoy in the House. While conservatives lament the need to address the budget during a lame-duck session of Congress, the one slight advantage it might have became apparent when Obama took immigration into his own hands last month.

A weak-kneed Republican plan for resisting Obama’s immigration overreach has now emerged. Step one was passing a meaningless fig leaf of a bill sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), which would make it illegal for Obama to change immigration law via executive authority. That bill passed the House on Thursday by a 219-197 vote, which included three Democrat votes.

According to The Hill, “The seven Republican no votes were Reps. Mike Coffman (Colo.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) Marlin Stutzman (Ind.) and David Valadao (Calif.). With the exceptions of Gohmert and Stutzman, who thought the bill did not go far enough, these Republicans are supportive of immigration reform.” Several of them have large Hispanic constituencies.

Regardless, the Senate won’t take up the bill. Even if it did, Obama would surely veto it. The Yoho bill simply provides cover for Republicans to say they voted against the Obama amnesty. Hey, it wasn’t their fault the Senate did nothing.

The GOP’s next step in this charade is to pass what’s being called the CRomnibus, a spending bill that funds all of the government through Sept. 30 (the omnibus part) except the Department of Homeland Security, which is extended only through a short continuing resolution (the CR part). Terrified of being blamed for another government “shutdown,” Republicans are punting their budgetary leverage away with the DHS exception. But it appears to be a bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can live with, and that’s the important hurdle to cross right now, particularly as Senate Republicans aren’t very willing to stand up against amnesty.

So far, things have played out more or less as we thought they would. Of course, the Left would blame any government shutdown on Republicans, but at this point it’s beginning to look like immigration reform by fiat may be Barack Obama’s hill to die on, not the House GOP’s.

This fight will demand even more vigilance. A big drawback to this strategy is that Democrats essentially maintain control of the purse strings until September, when the 2016 election will be in sight (although, to be sure, passing the budget in regular order earlier this year would have achieved the same result). Beginning in January, though, the GOP can create its own budget priorities and deliver them on schedule – something unseen in Washington in quite some time. Assuming they pass a package with funding for executive amnesty stripped out, it will be Obama holding the country hostage by having flouted the Rule of Law.

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