Roll Call does some terrific work here, undertaking a comprehensive survey of House Republicans’ offices and finding that a grand total of 19 of them are willing to voice support for the House GOP leadership’s recently released immigration reform principles:
The tally found 19 backing leadership’s standards, two more who said “possibly yes,” 30 Republicans openly opposing the principles, 22 who refused to say and 25 who were undecided. Three others had nuanced responses. The other 131 did not respond to calls or emails over a two-week period. […]
A common refrain from Republicans was opposition to “amnesty,” but how that politically toxic word in GOP circles is defined remains an essential question. “Amnesty by any other name is still amnesty,” Texas Rep. Michael C. Burgess said in a statement.
“I will oppose any policy that allows individuals who have cheated the system and entered the country illegally to gain citizenship ahead of those who have put in the time and effort to follow the appropriate process,” North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones told CQ Roll Call in a statement. [..]
There are vocal minorities in the GOP on both sides of the immigration issue. In the middle is a large group of Republicans who could be swayed either way. But many of those same Republicans believe Obama can’t be trusted to implement an immigration overhaul. Still, such a lackluster response from Republicans undermines Boehner’s contention that a majority of his conference supports the immigration principles, which were written in a broad fashion so as to attract the most support possible.
The real significance of this is that it underscores once again that the refusal of House Republicans to move forward with immigration reform has absolutely nothing to do with “distrust of Obama.” After all, only 19 House Republicans are willing to voice support for the House GOP leadership’s own immigration reform principles, which include some form of legalization for the 11 million (and not a special path to citizenship), provided security triggers are met.
The core question on the table, the core dilemma the GOP faces, is pretty straightforward. Can House Republicans develop their own actual policy solution to the problem of the 11 million? Can they develop their own proposal that would extend some kind of legal status to the 11 million, packaged with security triggers, that they can support? Right now, if Roll Call has it right, only 19 House Republicans will endorse this idea even in principle. We’re not even talking about actual legislation here; nor are we talking about whether Republicans should enter into negotiations with Obama and Dems (they have already put their ideas on the table, in the form of the Senate bill) or on what terms. Rather, we’re talking about whether House Republicans endorse the basic idea that the 11 million should be allowed to come out of the shadows, contingent on security conditions being met to their own satisfaction.
The answer to that core question appears to be No.
The most charitable interpretation here — suggested by Roll Call — is that many House Republicans equate endorsing the GOP leadership’s immigration principles with endorsing the idea of moving forward with reform this year. Perhaps many of them think that since the inability to trust Obama means success later is an impossibility, why court trouble with the right by even starting down this path?
If that’s what’s going on here, though, that’s also a pretty weak excuse. That’s because it elides the inconvenient fact that many GOP-aligned constituencies — the business community; agricultural and tech interests; evangelicals; the GOP consultant class — also want House Republicans to figure out a way to embrace some form of legalization, in hopes that it will lead to a solution to a problem pretty much everyone agrees must be solved. And these GOP-aligned constituencies want House Republicans to move on this now, since putting it off will not make action any easier later, and since the status quo is unacceptable.
The claim that House Republicans cannot act now because “Obama can’t be trusted” is an excuse for ignoring those GOP constituencies and prioritizing the preferences of hard-core right wing opponents of reform, who probably won’t accept legalization under any circumstances.